Mount softball succumbs to Jems' late surge

by Tom Utescher
Posted 4/13/21

After the first inning of play in last Saturday's Catholic Academies softball game at Mount St. Joseph, the host Magic led visiting Villa Joseph Marie, 4-1. The Jems then went ahead, but by the end …

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Mount softball succumbs to Jems' late surge

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After the first inning of play in last Saturday's Catholic Academies softball game at Mount St. Joseph, the host Magic led visiting Villa Joseph Marie, 4-1. The Jems then went ahead, but by the end of the third frame the Mount had come back to level the tally at 6-6.

After another two innings, the game was over. Villa Joe batters made contact more frequently, and the balls they hit seemed to have eyes, finding gaps in the Magic infield and outfield. The visitors only scored twice in the fourth, but their 10-run outburst at the top of the fifth allowed them to win by the mercy rule in the bottom of that inning, 18-6.

Because of a COVID-19 quarantine, it was only the second game of the spring for Mount St. Joe's, which had opened with a one-run loss to Villa Maria Academy. Villa Joseph had beaten Villa Maria, and had lost outside  of the league to a strong outfit in its own backyard, Council Rock South High School.

The Jems put a run on the board at the top of the first, but the Magic leapt into the lead in the home half. Leading off with a walk was junior shortstop Katie Convey, a Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate who has just verbally committed to play field hockey at Colgate University. She moved to second when classmate Paige Moore, the Mount centerfielder, poked a single into shallow left field.

After a pitch struck sophomore pitcher Emily Vinal to fill the bases with Mounties, a wild pitch allowed the Magic's first run to score while the other baserunners went to second and third. The batter at this stage was another Norwood alum, third baseman Clare Moxey. She's a senior, and will attend the University of Scranton.

Moxey waited out a walk, but as she trotted to first the Mount's lead runner tried to score and was tagged out between third base and home. This still left another runner on second, but she was forced out at third on a ball hit to the shortstop by Alexandra Ritter. Ritter, a senior who started at first base, has volunteered to become a Volunteer, heading south to the University of Tennessee.

Freshman left fielder Emily Birmingham, who also made her mark on the MSJ basketball program this winter, drew a walk to load the bases for the hosts a second time. The Magic made more out of this opportunity, as another ninth-grader, Vivian Moore, came through with a three-run triple down the line in left. The inning ended with a ground-out, but the Mounties were now holding a 4-1 lead.

That score held through the second inning, but in the top of the third the Mount witnessed the first significant burst of offense from the Jems.

With three walks and an MSJ error helping them along, the visitors also poked base hits through the infield and belted a double deep to left field. Five runs scored, and Villa Joe now led 6-4.

The Jems were still having some control problems in the circle that the Mounties were able to exploit, and they began the bottom of the third with walks for Moxey and Ritter. The runners moved up to second and third on a sacrifice bunt along the first base line by Birmingham.

Moore connected for an RBI single, then while her freshman classmate Josey Liebsch was at bat, a passed ball let in a sixth run for the Magic, tying the game. Liebsch, who started in right field, was out on a bunt that got the lead runner to third, but then a strike-out retired the side with score tied at six-all.

No one knew it then, but Mount St. Joseph was done scoring for the day, while Villa Joseph Marie certainly was not. Home fans weren't too worried when the Jems went ahead again with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth frame, but then the visitors introduced a new pitcher who sent the Mount down in order in the home half, striking out two.

Things went downhill rapidly for the Magic after that. Pitched balls just couldn't seem to avoid Villa Joe bats in the top of the fifth. A string of one and two-base hits spread the score to 12-6, still with no outs.

Convey went into the pitching circle for the hosts. Starting out with the bases loaded with Jems, she struck out the first batter but then the hits resumed. Over the next half-dozen at-bats, the Magic managed to collect a second out through a tag at third base, but the visitors heaped on six more runs to make it 18-6.

The Mount's senior designated hitter, Avery Storm, became the Mounties' third pitcher, entering the circle with a Villa Joe runner on second base. Storm (who is bound for Fairfield University) gave up walks to the first two batters she faced, then in a bases-loaded situation, she had the next batter hit the ball back toward the circle. The Mount pitcher grabbed it herself and got the out at first, finally sending the Jems back out into the field.

Because of the eight-run mercy rule that can take effect in the fifth inning of a game, Mount St. Joe needed to net at least five runs in the bottom half to reduce the gap from 12 to seven and allow the game to continue.

Chances of that happening grew slim thanks to consecutive strike-outs, then a put-out by the Jems' shortstop wrapped up the contest.

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