by Tom Utescher
When Norwood Fontbonne Academy hosted the Academy of Notre Dame in softball in May of 2015, the Irish went ahead 5-1 in the first inning and the Bears never overcame that early disadvantage, falling 11-7. Almost exactly one year later, the NFA Bears gave up an early run to visiting Notre Dame, but this time Norwood came out of the first inning with a 3-1 lead and went on to win, 7-5.
After gaining a 7-2 advantage over five innings in last Thursday’s contest, the locals let three runs score in the top of the sixth. In Notre Dame’s final batting turn in the seventh, NFA sixth-grader Katie Convey registered the last two of her 10 total strike-outs to help shut down the visitors and assure a Bears victory.
Norwood remained unbeaten at 6-0, while an overall mark of 5-4 was taken away by Notre Dame, who got 11 strikes from eighth-grade pitcher Caroline Adams along with just one walk. The AND team competes in both the Girls Catholic Academies League (along with NFA) and in the middle school division of the Inter-Ac League.
With one out in the top of the first, a double deep to right field was followed by a single directed down the third base line, producing Notre Dame’s first run. The Bears shut down the visitors with a strike-out and a ground-out, then an Irish throwing error got Norwood lead-off batter Clare Moxey to first base as the bottom half began.
The seventh-grader waited out a strike-out, then came around to score the tying run when Convey drove an RBI hit right across second base.
Stealing second while Notre Dame was in the process of striking out the next Norwood batter, Convey then came home on a single to center by number five hitter Lauren Slovensky, a seventh-grader.
Kristen Neill, one of just two eighth-graders on the NFA roster, hit a fly ball to center, but it was dropped by the fielder, putting Bears on first and third base. The other eighth-grade Norwooder, Alyssa Charlton, hit a very short and fairly low pop-up to the left of the pitching circle.
None of the infielders could get to it, and a run scored.
Notre Dame’s third baseman then caught a hard-hit line drive by Norwood seventh-grader Isabelle Millan to end the inning, but the hosts were ahead, 3-1.
That number was still on the board midway through the third inning, then the Chestnut Hill ballclub added a run in the home half. Both seventh-grader Lilly Wallace-Larkin and Convey singled to the left side of the infield, and a walk to seventh-grader Ryan Hendrzak loaded the bases with Bears with no outs.
After a strike-out, Neill benefitted a second time from the Irish dropping a fly ball in centerfield. A Norwood baserunner was fooled on the play and it cost the Bears a second out, but Wallace-Larkin scored safely to make it 4-1 going into the fourth.
Notre Dame recouped that one run immediately as Adams led off the fourth with a towering shot that easily cleared the high fence in left field and had the ball bounce on Sunset Avenue. Even longtime NFA faculty members could not remember a softball being hit out of the park in left.
It was only one run, though, and NFA was still up 5-2. The visitors threatened in the top of the fifth with two outs and runners on first and second. A very high fly hit to centerfield could’ve spelled trouble, but Wallace-Larkin kept her focus until the ball descended and made the catch.
Norwood fans felt more secure when their ballclub picked up three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to stretch the score to 7-2. With one out here, Wallace-Larkin got on base with a bunt and then reached third on a single to right field by Convey. Convey stole second, then Hendrzak hit a grounder to the pitcher. Hendrzak reached first as Notre Dame chose to try for an out at the plate, but the Irish couldn’t tag Wallace-Larkin, who slid home safely for the hosts’ fifth run.
Slovensky lined a hit between the third baseman and her bag, and after the Irish got done throwing the ball around, Solvensky was on third and two runs had scored. She was left on as the next two Bears struck out.
Notre Dame rallied gamely at the top of the sixth. The visitors got two bases out of a fly ball that was misjudged by an outfielder, then two legitimate RBI doubles followed to make it 7-4. A steal of third base then set the stage for a sacrifice grounder that got the guests within two runs of the Bears, 7-5.
That was only the first out, but Convey then struck out the next two Notre Dame batters. Millan began the home half of the sixth with a hit down the line in right, and a slow relay by the visitors allowed her to reach second base. She didn’t get any further though, as Notre Dame collected three straight outs and the Bears went back out into the field to try and secure the three outs that they needed to seal the victory.
Convey got ahead of the Irish right away with a strike-out, but an error on a pop-up got a Notre Dame runner to first base. Another strike-out followed, and then the game ended with a ground-out to NFA’s sixth-grade second baseman, Katie McGowan.
Sixth-grader Emily Reithmiller played in the outfield for the Bears, and fifth-grader Aoife Meacle subbed in later in the game.