by Tom Utescher
When a softball team sees its total number of runners left-on-base steadily increase while a zero remains on its side of the scoreboard, that starts to become a cause of concern. In their Inter-Ac League debut at Baldwin School last Thursday, the Blue Devils of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy left five runners stranded over the first five innings and then loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the sixth and still couldn’t get anyone home.
Up to that point, the host Bears hadn’t scored either, but they put up three runs in the bottom of the sixth and then survived an SCH rally at the top of the seventh to claim a 3-2 victory.
It was the first game that the Blue Devils have played locally; all of their other six outings had come during a spring break training trip. Junior pitcher Maddie Saltzman struck out five batters while yielding one walk in the league opener. Another 11th-grader, Baldwin’s Samantha O’Keefe, collected the win, accumulating six strike-outs and seven walks.
Both Saltzman and classmate Ashley Lubisky have been playing varsity softball for the Blue Devils since they were eighth graders. The three senior captains for SCH this spring are Kathleen Foley, Brigit McDermott, and Julia Moriarty.
The SCH hitters went down in order in the first inning, but the second stanza began with a single through the left side by Saltzman and a walk to McDermott. After the next batter popped-up, sophomore Ava Tokarek grounded out but helped the runners advance to second and third base. However, another pop-up followed for the third out.
With two down in the top of the third, Foley was hit by a pitch and then moved to second when freshman Lucy Lamb drew a walk. Saltzman hit a grounder toward the pitcher’s mound, and on its last hop, the ball rose up to waist level and was gloved by O’Keefe, who got the put-out at first base. SCH’s McDermott started the top of the fourth inning with a walk, but she, too, would be left stranded.
The Blue Devils also began their fifth turn at bat with a walk, this time for freshman Rachel Kazlauskas. O’Keefe came back to strike out the next batter, and then a ground ball to the right side set up a double play for the Bears, with a tag of Kazlauskas in the baseline and a throw to first to nail the batter, Foley.
Things were still all even on the scoreboard, since Saltzman had been able to keep the Baldwin batters under control. In the first four frames, the Bears went down in order twice, and they didn’t get a runner past second base at any point.
That changed in the bottom of the fifth, when Noelle Zimmerman led off with a single to right field and then moved around to third on a pair ground-outs. SCH’s Saltzman then retired the side with what would be her final strike-out of the game.
The Blue Devils were on the verge of snapping the scoreless stalemate at the top of the sixth inning. Lamb led off with a walk and went to second on Saltzman’s single through the right side of the infield, then another walk, to McDermott, loaded the bases with no outs.
SCH’s Lubisky, who had seen a hard-hit ball snagged in the air by the right fielder back in the fourth inning, now stood in the batter’s box until the count reached 3-2. The Blue Devil bench felt that the fifth pitch had been low and should’ve been ball four, but instead the count went full and on the next pitch Lubisky drove a low line drive back at the pitcher’s mound.
Baldwin’s lanky O’Keefe reacted quickly, reaching down to pocket the ball in the air for one out, and then catching the lead runner off of third base for a double play. The deflated Devils then saw their half of the inning end with a strike-out.
They got the first Bears batter out in the bottom of the frame, but then Baldwin’s Angela Smith singled to centerfield, stole second, and reached third on a successful bunt by Samantha Martin. A towering sacrifice fly by O’Keefe brought in the first run of the game, while Martin moved to second on that play and subsequently reached third on a wild pitch.
Gabrielle Ciccone drew a walk, and ran right to second when she saw the ball loose in the dirt behind the plate. Next, Zimmerman put a grounder in play to the left side, and this looked to be a routine four-three play to give SCH the third out. Instead, the second baseman bobbled the ball, and by the time the Blue Devils regained their bearings, two runs had scored. On another ground ball, Saltzman made sure of the third out herself, but Baldwin had gained a 3-0 advantage.
A ball off the bat of SCH senior Emily Chicchi got past the second baseman to give the visitors a baserunner at the top of the seventh. Chicchi stole second, but the next batter grounded out. After a walk to Moriarty, the Devils engineered a double steal that got one run home and placed Moriarty on third. She came home with the visitors’ second run when Foley’s high fly ball popped in and out of the centerfielder’s glove, and Foley wound up on second.
Foley, representing the tying run, reached third base on a wild pitch, but then O’Keefe recovered with a strike-out to bring the victory within reach. Her SCH counterpart, Saltzman, grounded the ball right back at O’Keefe on the next play, and a throw to first base finished the game.