Seventh-inning rally gives Avon Grove 4-3 win
05/03/2016 12:55PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
At certain angles, the pink bandana that Avon Grove pitcher Maggie Balint wore during the May 2 softball game against Downingtown East resembled that of a Samurai head cloth, and her complete-game, gut-it-out performance was certainly worthy of such a comparison. And yet, Balint was one of only several warriors who collectively earned such accolades during a gutsy 4-3 victory, in Ches-Mont League play.
Tied 3-3 into the bottom of the seventh, mere seconds after Avon Grove head coach Mike Deluzio was heard telling Allyson Wallauer “We need a gapper,” Wallauer lined a one-out double in the left field gap to start the Red Devil rally. Wallauer was replaced by designated runner Becca LeStourgeon, who advanced to third on an infield grounder by Rachel Butler that was bobbled by Downingtown East shortstop Faith Willenbrock. After Olivia Kunitsky grounded out, Camryn LaFerza hit a meager pop-up between catcher Jen Wilcox and pitcher Jess Meluskey that fell between the two Cougars, while LeStourgeon scampered across home for the winning run.
LaFerza's hit was an unlikely finish to a game that saw a tospy-turvy change of leads, several key hits, and a nine-strikeout performance by Balint, in a game that challenged the University of Oregon recruit in the middle innings. Avon Grove scored first, when in the second, Butler stroked a one-out double to left center, advanced to third on an infield error by Willenbrock, and scored on a double steal, while designated runner Kelly Murphy went to second.
Over the past three seasons of Red Devil softball, it has become customary to believe that one run is all Balint needs to assure a victory, but by the end of D-Town East's fourth, it was apparent that there would need to be added reliance on Avon Grove to produce more runs. Wilcox led off the inning with a double to right center for her team's first hit of the game. Willenbrock followed with a single up the middle that scored Wilcox, took second on a sacrifice bunt by Stephanie Jacoby, and came around for the go-ahead run on an opposite field triple by Erin Phelan.
In their half of the fourth, Avon Grove came back to tie the score when Kunitsky led off the inning by reaching on an error by Willenbrock. She advanced to third on an overthrow following a bunt attempt by LaFerza, who went to second on the error. Kunitsky then came in to score the tying run when Olivia McGarvey lined a single up the middle, past starting pitcher Claire Kelly.
The Cougars added another run in their fifth when nine-hole batter Christina Golden stroked a double to left center, went to third on a two-out single by Wilcox, and scored on a bloop single by Willenbrock. Down 3-2 in their half of he fifth, Morgan DeFeo led off with an opposite field single to left. After Balint was hit by a pitch, Wallauer popped out to short and Butler field to left. With two out and two on, Kunitsky singled past third to drive in DeFeo with the game-tying run.
D-Town East's at bats in their half of the sixth proved to be gut-check time for Balint and her teammates. Claire Riley, batting for Phelan, reached on an error by Avon Grove third baseman Butler, and promptly went to second when Lexi Hammer's grounder to second was bobbled by McGarvey. A sacrifice bunt by Melusky put Riley on third, and with one away, pinch-hitter Amelia Mazza was thrown out on a bunt attempt by Kunitsky. Seeing Riley break for home, McGarvey fired the ball to Kunitsky, who put the tag on Riley for the double play to end the scoring threat.
The win gives the Red Devils a 13-2 overall record and a 12-2, first-place rank in the Ches-Mont standings. Following a game at Sun Valley on May 4, the travel to Bishop Shanahan on May 6, and return home on May 9 against Sun Valley. The loss dropped Downingtown East to 9-7 overall and 8-6 in the Ches-Mont.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail email@example.com.