Published by The Enterprise on April 20, 2018
The secret handshake is really not that complex at all, but it more than served its purpose as it helped generate fourth-inning home runs by Melody Coombs and Cassie Aud and propel the host Knights to an eventual 3-2 come-from-behind win Wednesday over Bishop McNamara of Prince George’s County in a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference softball contest.
The Knights (10-2, 10-2 WCAC), who trailed 2-0 before the secret handshake led to the two dingers, have won their last six games.
“It was a good team win,” St. Mary’s Ryken first-year head coach Stephanie Dameron said. “McNamara’s very talented, especially in the circle, so we knew we had to bring our best tonight and I think we did that and executed when we needed to.”
“We’re really young, but it helps us because we know it’s not just one person,” Aud said. “We all need each other so whenever someone makes an error we pick each other up really well and we stay fired up.”
The Knights trailed 2-0 in the fourth, but Coombs pounded a leadoff home run over the left-field fence.
“The first at-bat I didn’t do too well, so I was just thinking hard ground ball and then when I hit it I was pretty happy,” Coombs said. “But when it came off the bat I kind of knew. It felt pretty solid.”
“Usually when she hits a home run she tells me to hit a home run and then we did our little handshake and we were good,” Aud said of the gesture, which is a touch with the three middle fingers. “It’s just a tap with the fingers. It’s not complicated.”
One out later, Aud hit a towering homer well over the center-field fence.
“It was low and inside and that’s my favorite pitch,” Aud said. “If I see low and inside, I’m swinging at it every time, so that’s what I was looking for and that’s what she threw and I’m like, ‘Got to get this sucker.’”
St. Mary’s Ryken scored the eventual winning run in the sixth, but it wasn’t without controversy.
Coombs hit a deep fly ball to straightaway center and McNamara centerfielder Jaylah Romero-Thompson made the catch, but a split-second later crashed into the fence and the ball landed outside the netting. The home plate umpire ruled the play a ground-rule double.
“It’s umpire’s discretion,” Dameron said, “[but] I’ll take the double because I knew we had good solid bats behind her.”
Kayla Kern, who had struck out her two previous at-bats, followed with a line drive up the middle to score the go-ahead run.
“I was a bit nervous, but I hit well yesterday [in a 10-5 win over St. John’s of Washington, D.C.], so I knew I just had to hit it hard like I’ve been doing and eventually I’d find a hole,” Kern said.
“Right when the ball was hit I took off,” Coombs said, “because I knew it was going to get through.”
Alexis Ridgell added two singles for the Knights, who are next scheduled to host Paul VI (Va.) at 4 p.m. Monday and marks the first of four games the team will play in as many days.
Aud allowed three hits, struck out nine and walked two. She retired 10 of the first 11 batters she faced.
“I felt pretty comfortable,” she said. “I just wanted to get first-pitch strikes to get ahead and then get them to swing at bad pitches. They were making good contact with the ball, but the defense had my back and they were making good plays.”
Calvert County resident Bailey Wilcox started for McNamara in the circle and allowed six hits and fanned 11.
The Mustangs (13-3, 9-2) grabbed their 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth, but in the bottom of the frame the power of the not-so secret handshake turned the game around.
“That was a killer and it took a little wind out of the sails, but I liked what my pitcher did,” McNamara head coach Angie Diehlmann said of Wilcox. “She took control of the situation and got them all focused again.”
Dameron, who was the junior varsity head coach in 2016 and a varsity assistant last year, said that coupled with assistant coach Megan Elliott’s familiarity with the team doesn’t surprise her the team is excelling.
“Not really because we work really hard in practice,” Dameron said. “They’ve bought into our coaching styles and the team mentality and that we’re trying to do something special here. Ultimately we’re trying to win a championship.”