April 25th, 2012

No. 2 Ballard Finishes Off No. 6 Assumption

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer


No. 2 Ballard Finishes Off No. 6 Assumption
photo by Paul Najjar

Regional rivals complete suspended game

In one of the most anticipated softball games of the early season, the 11-0 Ballard Lady Bruins visited the 7-1-1 Assumption Rockets at Assumption Green Wednesday evening.

That was the opening lead of the game story from three weeks ago, April 4, from a contest that was suspended due to heavy rain and wet field conditions in the bottom of the 2nd inning.

When the two teams retook the field to complete the game on Wednesday, 21 days later, No. 2 Ballard sported a 17-2 record and No. 6 Assumption was sitting at 23-3-1.

The teams resumed play in weather conditions that were eerily similar to those from April 4. Threatening skies, a moderate rainfall before the game and intermittent drizzle throughout was the setting for the final 5½ innings of action Wednesday evening with Ballard prevailing 9-3.

Assumption ace Morgan Foley started the game on April 4 and had trouble gripping the ball and locating her pitches in the wet, muddy conditions. She hit Ballard’s leadoff hitter Bailey Walker and gave up consecutive infield singles to sophomore centerfielder Jessica Adell and freshman catcher Alexis Hull.

The experienced Foley uncharacteristically bounced several pitches in the dirt and a few sailed far away from their intended target. With the bases loaded, clean-up hitter Hannah Gray drilled a single to centerfield to plate two runs. Two batters later Meghan McCreery cracked a double to the fence that brought Hull and Gray in to score as the Bruins raced to a 5-0 lead.

Assumption's Emily Carmack led off the bottom of the first--again, back on April 4--with a sharp single to left field and advanced to third on two wild pitches. With one out, Lily Nitzken skied a fly ball to short centerfield and Carmack was thrown out at the plate by a good six feet on a strong throw from Adell. All seemed to be going Ballard’s way early.

And though Foley completed the bottom of the second inning without allowing a run, it was Carmack in the pitcher’s circle when the game resumed April 25.

But the game was officially suspended in the bottom of the 2nd inning with one out, a runner on second base and full count on Carla Barrett. Not an easy way to start, or re-start a game, but Barrett walked to give the Rockets runners on first and second with one out. Foley followed with a single to load the bases, but Ballard’s freshman pitcher Allison Wiseman wiggled out of the jam allowing only one unearned run.

To start the third, Carmack entered the pitcher’s circle having been told by head coach Jennifer Hunt just before the game started that she would be pitching. She allowed a one-out double to McCreery, a single to Katie Kelly and then hit Madison Kearschner to load the bases. Carmack got out of trouble by getting a force out at the plate and then inducing Walker to ground out to shortstop to keep the Rockets within striking distance at 5-1.

“Coach Hunt told me right before we took the field that I’d be pitching today,” said Carmack. “She told me to keep it low, keep it outside and mainly I threw drops to keep the ball low.”

While Carmack shut down a potentially big third inning for Ballard, she and her teammates kept chipping away at the Lady Bruins' lead. She led off the third inning getting hit by a pitch for the 15th time this season. She was sacrificed to second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Lillie Nitzken’s grounder back to the mound that Wiseman misplayed for an error. Alyssa Torquino was hit by a pitch and following a pop out, Carla Barrett walked to load the bases with two outs.

That set the stage for Foley. The University of Indianapolis commit stroked a 2-2 frozen rope to centerfield that was caught on the run by Adell. Five feet to either side of the centerfielder and the ball probably would have rolled to the fence, cleared the bases and put the Rockets down by a run, instead of going into the 4th inning down 5-2.

“We came not to lose today,” said Ballard head coach Alan Jones. “Assumption’s a great team and we’re a young team. I think we put too much pressure on this game, but I wanted the girls to experience a regional environment. The first three innings today we hit three batters and had three errors and we were not playing Ballard baseball. But Carmack pitched a great game for them.”

But the Lady Bruins bounced right back and scored two runs in the top of the fourth without the benefit of a hit. Adell reached second base on a two-base error by Rockets second baseman Kelly Wheeler. After a fielder’s choice moved Adell to third and Gray was hit by a pitch, Wise launched a sacrifice fly to deep right field that scored Adell. Gray scored on another error to give the Lady Bruins a 7-2 lead.

Atoning for her miscues in the field, Wheeler led off the bottom of the fourth with a solid single to centerfield. Catcher Emily Wiley singled to right centerfield and Wheeler aggressively took third on the play with Wiley taking second on the throw to third. Carmack was next and got hit by a pitch yet again to load the bases. It was the 16th time this season that she was hit by a pitch and that set a new, albeit dubious, Kentucky state record.

“The entire left side of my body is bruised,” Carmack laughed of the record she earned. “But it’s so worth it.”

That brought Jones to the mound for a pitching change. He called Adell in from centerfield and she promptly threw six consecutive strikes to set down Cassidy Janes and Nitzken. It took Adell five pitches to strike out Tarquino and end the inning unscathed.

Both teams got a runner to second base with two outs in their respective fifth innings, but neither scored.

“Emily (Carmack) pitched a fantastic game,” said Hunt. “She did exactly what we asked her to do: keep the ball low and hit her marks. Her change-up was working and our defense didn’t play well enough behind her. Three of their (Ballard’s) four runs today were unearned.”

Assumption’s third earned was well-earned by Carmack. After a brief, spirited pep talk from Hunt to her entire team, Carmack led off the bottom of the sixth with a home run to left field that cleared the fence by 25 feet (see photo above of the home run swing). Jones followed with a bunt single and reached third on consecutive fielder’s choice ground outs and was stranded there on Paige Stopher’s fly out to left field.

The Lady Bruins tacked on two runs in the seventh to set the final at 9-3.

Though tough to take, Hunt felt that the Rockets played well considering the early 5-0 deficit, and the always tough Lady Bruins. By the end of the regular season, Assumption will have played 13 games against teams ranked in the Top 25 in Kentucky.

“It’s difficult to pick up a game like this, but we came out fighting from the get-go,” said Hunt. “We left 10 runners on base today and this is one of the only times all year that we didn’t have that timely hit to bust things open. We’ve had a super difficult schedule and have a win over the No. 1 team (Allen County – Scottsville). We’ve faced good competition all year, but I think the girls are getting that taste of a rivalry game with Ballard and with Mercy (ranked No. 4 in the state) coming up. There’s something to be said for those rivalry games to settle-in and just play, rather than being so jacked up and excited.”

Both teams have tough games ahead of them. The 18-2 Lady Bruins will go on the road to face Jeffersonville (IN) Thursday and then travel to a big showdown at No. 1 Allen County – Scottsville on Friday.

The 23-4-1 Rockets go right back to their tough schedule with a game Thursday at No. 17 ranked Bullitt East and then Saturday at No. 7 Greenwood.

 

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