by Tom Utescher
For Mount St. Joseph Academy, last Monday’s Catholic Academies softball contest wasn’t just the Magic’s first league game and first home game, it was the first game they were able to play anywhere in the Philadelphia area this season. In addition to the lousy weather, which has troubled everyone, the Mount has dealt with other issues, too.
Referring to his ballclub’s spring break training trek, fifth-year head coach Bill Thompson noted, “We didn’t get in any games before our trip to Florida, and we even had to cancel a few games down there because we got hit with a stomach virus, which is actually still going through the team. We had some starters down today, but it’s still the beginning of the season and we have a lot of games to go.”
Before arriving at the Mount last Monday, Villa Maria had gone 3-1 in league contests (losing only to St. Basil), and behind a powerful performance from junior pitcher Maddie Abbott (13K, 0BB), the Hurricanes closed out the Magic in six innings, 12-0.
“She’s been lighting up the league early in the season,” MSJ’s Thompson remarked.
Mount St. Joe started out with its number two pitcher, sophomore Julie Burns. With one out and two Villa runners on base with singles at the top of the first, the Hurricanes’ Sarahrose Jonik whacked a three-run homer to left centerfield. Junior Kailey Karabin moved onto the Mount mound, and the visitors were retired with a strike-out and a ground-out.
The batters for the home team had trouble getting anything going against Abbott, who sent the Mounties down in order in each of the first three innings. Villa picked up a fourth run on a wild pitch in the second inning, but in the third the Magic managed to hold the Hurricanes scoreless for the first time.
This proved to be the calm before the storm though. At the top of the fourth, Abbott set the tone by leading off with a triple to centerfield, and by the time the visitors laid down their bats, they’d added five more runs for a 9-0 advantage.
After a pair of strike-outs to start the Mount’s half of the inning, the Magic acquired their first baserunner of the day when Karabin dropped a base hit into shallow center. However, that was followed by another Abbott strike-out.
If the Hurricanes had scored just one run at the top of the fifth inning, they could’ve ended the game early by shutting out the Magic in the bottom half. The Mounties were able to stay alive a little longer than that, though. Villa had a runner on third with two outs in round five, but a fly ball was gloved by the Magic in foul territory to keep it a nine-point affair.
The hosts were still unable to make a mark on their own side of the scoreboard. With two outs in the home half of the fifth, junior Mary Buckley reached first when she was hit by a pitch, but she got no further as Abbott wrapped up the inning with her 13th strike-out of the afternoon.
The visitors then pushed their run total into double figures at the top of the sixth, starting out with back-to-back doubles and eventually coming away with three runs. The Magic trailed 12-0 when they picked up the bats in the bottom of the inning. The Villa Maria fielders sandwiched two ground-outs around a pop-up to short, and the game was over.
Mount mentor Thompson noted that while the ‘Canes Abbott definitely presents a challenge to opposing batters, the Magic could’ve handled it better than they did.
“She basically throws two pitches, a fast ball and a high fast ball,” he pointed out. “If you’re disciplined enough to lay off the high fast ball, then you can be in the game.
“We’ve got to be more patient at the plate,” he continued. “We’ve got to lay off balls that are above the hands, and not get anxious. Then we can bring the pitch count up for their pitcher, and it should allow us to see a lot more pitches in the zone.”