by Tom Utescher
In most early games this softball season, a defensive letdown in just one inning spelled trouble for the Mount St. Joseph Magic. Unfortunately for Mount fans, the scenario was played out again in last Thursday’s home game, as a four-run outburst at the top of the third carried visiting Villa Maria to a 5-1 victory.
Mount St. Joe came away with a 1-3 record in Catholic Academies play, having previously beaten St. Basil while losing to Villa Joseph Marie and Merion Mercy. The Villa Hurricanes improved to 3-0 in the league (5-0 overall) as they added the Mount win to victories over Villa Joe and St. Basil.
The winning pitcher, senior Alyssa Viscardo, has signed with the University of Hartford, and going the distance for Mount St. Joe was junior Paige Parisi.
The Magic graduated only one starter from last year’s squad and remains a young team this year, with two senior starters and another 12th grader in reserve. Parisi is once again throwing to starting catcher Claire Moxey, a sophomore out of Norwood Fontbonne Academy. Last Thursday, Moxey was behind the plate for four innings, and then junior Olivia Nace took over. Much of the infield also returns in the same positions, with senior Kailyn Muhl at third base and juniors Kasey McMahon and Katie Tausz at second and first, respectively.
New at shortstop is junior Alex Lerro. She arrived on the diamond after two seasons with the Mount crew team, but brought years of travel team softball experience. Another 11th grader, Natalie Sheridan, has shifted from the infield to left field, and senior Lily Doyle is in right. The new centerfielder is a freshman from Norwood, Katie Convey. She’s also a pitcher, and obviously is used to throwing to former NFA teammate Moxey.
Last Thursday, Villa Maria had runners on second and third with one out in the top of the first, then Parisi struck out the next batter and a groundout retired the side. Doyle, the Mount’s lefty leadoff batter, hit a grounder that was bobbled in the infield and reached first safely. She went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Convey, then reached third when Parisi grounded out to the second baseman. Another groundout left Doyle on third base, though.
In the second, Villa had runners on base with a single and a walk with two outs. Leadoff hitter Riley Miller put the ball in play and beat the MSJ throw to first. As Hurricane runners ahead of her tried to advance an extra base on the play, the Magic got the tag at third, but not before Villa scored the first run of the afternoon.
After the Mount went down in order in the bottom of the second inning, Villa’s Viscardo singled to start off the third. That would be the visitors’ only hit in the inning, but multiple Mount miscues, including a pickoff play gone wrong, allowed four runs to flow across the plate for a 5-0 Hurricane lead.
The Mount and Villa each went down one-two-three in the bottom of the third and the top of the fourth. In the bottom of the fourth, Convey bunted and beat the throw to first. Stealing second, she skillfully slid around a tag attempt to arrive safely.
Going to third on a groundout to the right side by Parisi, Convey scored on a groundout by Muhl. A strikeout ended the inning, and the 5-1 final score was now in the books.
The Mount St. Joe defense only allowed a total of seven Villa players to bat in the fifth and sixth innings. In the home half of the sixth, a single by McMahon and a hit to left field by Doyle gave the Magic two baserunners, but three straight outs followed.
The Hurricanes threatened to add to their lead at the top of the seventh, getting runners to second and third with no outs. They had to stand pat when the next batter hit a high pop that was gloved by the Mount’s McMahon. Parisi then disposed of the threat entirely with back-to-back strikeouts.
With one out in the bottom of the inning a Villa error got the Magic’s Tausz safely to first base. She was forced out at second on the next play, and then a strikeout ended the game.