Published by The Enterprise on Friday, May 4, 2018
By TED BLACK email@example.com
KENSINGTON — Staked to an early 6-0 lead and working on a perfect game through the first three innings of play of the second Washington Catholic Athletic Conference softball semifinal on Thursday afternoon at the Academy of the Holy Cross, St. Mary's Ryken High School junior hurler Cassie Aud faced a serious dilemma in the top of the fourth against Paul VI.
St. Mary's Ryken (14-3), the second seed in the tournament, had scored three runs in each of the first two innings and Aud had failed to allow a single Panthers baserunner until the fourth en route to a 10-4 win.
The Knights advanced to the championship game to face O'Connell (Va.) tentatively set for Saturday afternoon at Holy Cross, but with rains expected that morning and well into the afternoon organizers are planning to make a decision regarding that game on Friday afternoon. If the game is postponed Saturday, then the teams will return to Holy Cross on Tuesday afternoon for the WCAC title clash.
In the third of Thursday's game, Paul VI leadoff batter Caroline Susco singled, then Danielle Brown beat out an infield single and Olivia Mock followed with a clean single to left and Panthers cleanup hitter Lizzie Thibodeau headed to the plate with a chance to get the Virginia squad back into contention.
But Aud promptly retired Thibodeau on a grounder to first baseman Christine Shatrowsky, who threw home to catcher Alexis Ridgell to get the lead runner for the first out and then Aud fanned Kimmy Thibodeau looking on an 0-ball, 2-strike pitch and then fanned Sally Kay Gotter swinging at a 1-2 pitch to end the threat.
"I was definitely a little nervous in that spot," said Aud, who allowed four runs, three earned, on six hits, three walks and two wild pitches while fanning six Panthers while throwing strikes on 72 of 114 pitches to earn the victory. "I just had to stay focused and let my defense do its job. My drop curve wasn't working all game, but my palm-up curve was working."
St. Mary's Ryken had staked Aud to an early lead by getting three runs in the first inning against Paul VI starter Theresa Boyd, who was pulled after walking three batters and allowing a single to Melody Coombs without retiring a batter in the first. Boyd would eventually return to the circle for the last four innings but was touched with the loss, allowing seven earned runs. Kimmy Thibodeau allowed three earned runs in two innings of work.
The Knights scored three runs on two hits, four walks and a throwing error in the first, but they were far more proficient in the second. Coombs and Aud both singled with one out and Coombs scored on a groundout by Kayla Kern. Third baseman Reagan Sutton followed with a two-run homer to left center to give the Knights a 6-0 lead.
"I knew when i hit it that it had a good chance," said Sutton, who had also homered one day earlier in a 22-1 victory over seventh-seeded Good Counsel of Montgomery County in the quarterfinals.
St. Mary's Ryken would later extend the lead to 8-0. Coombs had a solo homer to left in the fourth and Mikayla Hayden doubled and scored on a single by Jessica Limerick in the fifth. Coombs added an RBI double in the sixth and scored on a bloop single to left by Sutton.
"I thought I was swinging the bat pretty well today," said Coombs, who went 4 for 4, scored three runs and drove in two on Thursday. "I was just looking for good pitches to hit and make good contact. But Cassie really battled today. She was able to get out of that bases loaded jam in the fourth, but we knew she would."
Aud took a four-hit shutout into the sixth, but the Panthers finally dented the board that frame. Sixth-seeded Paul VI (9-12) scored three runs on two hits, two walks and a wild pitch, with Olivia Mock and Kimmy Thibodeau collected the team's only two RBI in defeat. The Panthers scored an unearned run in the top of the seventh courtesy of an Aud wild pitch and throwing error by Ridgell.
In the first WCAC softball semifinal on Thursday, two-time defending champion O'Connell made quick work of fifth-seeded St. John's of Washington, D.C., 16-1, in five innings, to reach the final.