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Northside errors lead to first loss in all-star softball

When the tide finished rolling Monday, Northside was left underwater in the winners-bracket game of the Senior All-Stars Section 3 softball tournament.

Northside fell to Orlando Conway 9-8 in a game that had four lead changes, three of them in the final two innings.

Northside jumped on top of the first wave with three runs in the top of the first inning. Tina Biersalk singled to open the game and Kelly Wooles walked. Jen Sladky followed with a double to score both runners. After Alissa Leef grounded out to move Sladky to third, Nicolette Webster brought home the third run of the inning.

With the lead, Leef cruised through the first two innings on the mound, allowing just two walks.

But the tide changed in the third thanks to Rachelle Schmidt. The inning opened with an error by Leef and a double by Ryan Outlaw. After Kim Stork flew out to leftfield, Ashley Strum walked to load the bases and bring Schmidt to the plate.

Schmidt responded by driving a grand slam over the left-centerfield fence, turning a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 lead and taking the wind out of Northside's sails.

"Our bats went cold for a couple innings after that hit," Northside coach Joe Wooles said, "but our team never quits."

Before the Northside bats thawed, Conway's remained red hot as they put three more runs on the board on two triples, a double and a single in the fifth for a 7-3 lead.

Northside's bats finally emerged in the top of the sixth and it seemed as if Northside might ride the final wave. Sladky's triple to rightfield scored Noelle Hoffman and Wooles to cap a five-run rally and give Northside an 8-7 lead. Only three outs were needed to advance to the championship game.

"We kept clawing away at them and we came back strong," Joe Wooles said.

But he said he never feels in control of a game. "Every team is good enough to come back at anytime."

And that's exactly what happened as Northside's defense faltered and the final crest came crashing down. Three errors led to the tying run and allowed the winning run to reach second. That run was scored on a single by Kim Stork.

"We made a couple of mental mistakes at the end and could not recover," Wooles said.

Northside had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh when Cathy Coe singled to right. The ball was misplayed and rolled all the way to the fence. Coe was being sent home but hesitated coming around third. She was tagged out trying to dive into third and banged her knee into the bag.

Northside is still alive in the double-elimination tournament and will play again Wednesday night.

"If we come out Wednesday and don't make those types of lapses, we'll be there in the end," Wooles said.

In other Section 3 softball action, the Citrus Park 9-10-year-olds advanced to the championship on Thursday.

The South Brandon 9-10 baseball team advanced to Wednesday's championship with a 15-1 win.