by Tom Utescher

After reaching first base due to being struck by a pitch, CHC’s Mandi Rush rounds second on a hit to right center by fellow junior Cassie Benson. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

With Friday the 13th out of the way, the Chestnut Hill College softball squad experienced an upturn its fortunes during the second game of last Saturday’s home doubleheader.

Going into the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference twin bill with a record of 1-15 in the CACC and 1-21 overall, the Griffins lost Saturday’s opener, 8-0, then found themselves in a 1-8 hole four innings into the second game. They got one point back in the bottom of the fifth, then in their next turn at bat, the locals knocked out six runs to tie the game at 8-8.

After surviving a base-loaded, no-outs dilemma at the top of the seventh with the deadlock still intact, Chestnut Hill used a walk and a bunt to put runners on first and second base with one out in the home half of the inning. On a ball off the bat of freshman Brittany Hoban, Bloomfield made an error on an force-out attempt at second, allowing the winning run to cross the plate for CHC.

The Deacons returned to northern New Jersey with a 9-7 mark in the CACC, and an overall record of 24-15.

In the first game on Saturday, Bloomfield jumped right on the Griffins with a four-run first inning, then added one more in the fourth frame. When the Deacons scored three times in the top of the fifth and then blanked Chestnut Hill in the bottom half, the contest concluded early thanks to the NCAA’s “mercy” rule. Other stats were pretty much in keeping with the final score; Bloomfield outhit the Griffins 10-3 and made no errors in the game, while CHC had two miscues.

Chestnut Hill kept Bloomfield’s offense in check for the first three innings of the second go-round, going into the fourth stanza all even at 1-1. After a big defensive letdown for the Griffins at the top of that inning, Bloomfield once again had eight runs in the books. There was a glimmer of hope in the fifth frame, as the hosts sent the Deacons down in order in the top half, and picked up a run on the flip side.

Here, an infield error on a ball hit by freshman Brittany Neuman and a walk to junior Kim Kashnoski were followed by a strike out. Next, sophomore Sarah Mattaliano batted up a ball that rolled slowly along near the third base line, providing enough time for the Griffins to be safe all around. The runners held up as junior slugger Giana Cavallo flew out to shallow centerfield, but at least CHC came away with one run as freshman Caitlin O’Neill drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 8-2.

Leading off in the bottom of the sixth, CHC junior pitcher Mandi Rush was herself hit by a pitch, and she went to third when a sluggish response in right field turned junior Cassie Benson’s base hit into a two-bagger. Neuman punched an RBI single past the Bloomfield shortstop, then Kashnoski hit in a fourth CHC run, singling to shallow right center.

Following a strike-out for the first out of the inning, Mattaliano batted a hopping ground ball towards the second baseman and beat out a low throw to first, loading the bases. For the second time in as many innings, CHC’s Cavallo came to the plate with the bases loaded. This time around, she swatted the ball down near the line in right field, clearing the bases and reaching third as an outfield error added an extra base onto the play.

The Deacons changed pitchers, but CHC’s O’Neill, facing new Bloomfield hurler Alex Smith, got the tying run home (8-8) with a sacrifice grounder to short. The Griffins had the winning run at first when senior Gina DiAnnuntis drew a walk, but a ground-out followed to end the inning.

The deadlock on the scoreboard (if it had been working) looked to be short-lived as a double, a hit batter, and a base hit loaded the bases for the visitors with no outs in the top of the seventh. CHC checked off one out by gloving an infield pop-up that immobilized the runners, then came a play that indicated that this might indeed be a special game for the Griffins.

The next batter hit a low line drive to Benson, the second baseman. She caught the ball and quickly flipped it to first base for a double play, ending the Bloomfield threat altogether.

The home half of the seventh started with a strike-out, but then a patient Neuman waited out a full-count base on balls. Next, Kashnoski’s bunt dribbled down the third base line and the Deacons couldn’t pick it up cleanly, giving the Griffins runners at first and second with one out. When Hoban hit the ball to the second baseman, the Bloomfield shortstop came over to cover second base for a force-out attempt, but a high throw skipped up out of the pocket of her glove and the ball rolled towards centerfield. Neuman came home standing up for the game-winning run.

Bloomfield had an 11-10 edge in hits for the contest, but also committed two errors to the Griffins’ one. Rush pitched the distance for the victors, striking out two batters and walking one.

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