McAuley done in by one bad inning
PORTLAND—The McAuley softball team hoped it turned its season around Friday with a come-from-behind victory at Windham, but Monday, with an opportunity to win again, the Lions were doomed by one painful inning.
After junior pitcher Sam Libby was close to unhittable for six innings, the bottom fell out in the top of the seventh, as McAuley committed three errors and visiting Westbrook finally solved Libby with four hits. It all added up to a six-run explosion and the Lions couldn't respond, falling, 6-0.
Libby wound up with 15 strikeouts, but McAuley only registered three hits and fell to 1-3 on the year, as the Blue Blazes improved to 3-2.
"We didn't have to make plays, because we got so many outs on the strikeouts, but when it came time, we dropped a fly ball and we threw it away," lamented Lions coach Robbie Ferrante.
McAuley made the playoffs in 2010 and 2011, but fell short last year with a 6-10 record.
This spring, the Lions figure to compete with everyone and that's been the case in the early going.
After a 3-1 loss at Marshwood to start the year, McAuley suffered a painful 3-1 (eight inning) home loss to rival Cheverus.
Friday, the Lions were down, 7-3, at Windham, but scored four times in both the fifth and sixth innings to prevail, 11-7.
Westbrook lost, 11-2, at Noble to start, beat visiting Sanford, 4-1, fell, 10-1, at Massabesic, then handled visiting Deering, 13-1, in five innings.
Last year, the Lions fell at the Blue Blazes, 10-7. McAuley's last win over Westbrook came two years ago, a 5-4, eight inning decision.
Monday, the opportunity was there for the Lions to prevail, but they failed to seize it.
Libby set the tone in the top of the first, striking out Westbrook second baseman Allie Lemay and centerfielder Emily Thornton swinging and getting shortstop Katie Clark to look at strike three.
In the bottom half, McAuley sophomore shortstop Maddie Wade singled sharply down the leftfield line with one out, but sophomore second baseman Megan Bailey looked at strike three and on the pitch, Wade, who was trying to steal second, stopped halfway and was thrown out.
Libby walked catcher Kerigan Demers to start the second. Demers moved to second on a passed ball and stole third, but Libby was busy fanning leftfielder Emma Berry, third baseman Amberly Delpointe and pitcher Kayla Tibbetts to keep the game scoreless.
In the bottom of the second, senior first baseman Molly Mack led off by blooping a single to center and moved up on an error, but junior centerfielder Lauren Coulombe struck out, junior third baseman Mackenzie Leonard grounded back to the pitcher and Tibbetts caught freshman catcher Kim Fisher looking at strike three.
In the top of the third, Libby caught first baseman Catherine Galipeau and rightfielder Heather Bailey staring at strike three, then fired strike three past Lemay.
The Lions couldn't take advantage in the bottom half, as junior leftfielder Jill Ma struck out and junior rightfielder Monica Hutcherson and Libby both popped out to second base.
Libby's dominance continued in the fourth, as she fired strike three past both Thornton and Clark before Demers finally put a ball in play, but popped meekly to Leonard at third.
Wade hoped to get something going leading off the bottom of the fourth, but her line drive was stabbed nicely by Bailey in right and Tibbetts got Megan Bailey to ground out to second before catching Mack looking a strike three.
In the fifth, Libby caught Berry looking at strike three for her 12th K in 13 outs, but Delpionte (ground ball to Mack) and Tibbetts (ground ball back to the mound) did manage to make contact.
The bottom of the fifth saw McAuley go quietly again, as Coulombe fouled out to the catcher, Leonard grounded out to third and Fisher bounced out to short.
Westbrook broke up Libby's no-hit bid with one out in the sixth, as a bunt off the bat of Bailey landed between the pitcher and catcher for a single. Bailey was quickly caught stealing by Fisher, however, and on a bunt, Lemay was thrown out by Leonard.
The Lions had a chance in their half, as with one out, sophomore pinch-hitter Marisa Gouchie bounced a single off the glove of Delpointe at third and moved to second on an error. Libby then grounded sharply to Clark at short, but with Gouchie running, Clark made a heads-up play, tagging the runner, then throwing to first to complete the double play and end the inning.
That set the stage for the fateful seventh.
It began uneventfully as Libby threw out Thornton on a bunt back to the mound, but a shot to right by Clark went off the glove of Hutcherson for a two-base error.
Demers then grounded to Libby, who tried to throw out Clark at third. Unfortunately for the Lions, the throw was high over Leonard and resulted in an error which scored Clark with the game's first run and put Demers at second.
Berry beat out a single and stole second, but Libby fanned Delpointe to get to the brink of escaping the inning without further damage.
Then, the bottom fell out.
A passed ball on ball four to Tibbetts scored Demers with the second run.
Berry came home on a double to left by Galipeau, pinch-runner Dana Ledue scored on an error by Ma and Galipeau took third. Pinch-runner Kelsey Savage scored the fifth run on a bloop infield hit by Bailey and after Bailey took third on a single by Lemay, both runners stole a base, bringing Bailey home to cap the six-run surge.
"At (1-0), I was still alright, but I knew we were in trouble (after that)," Ferrante said. "The only thing that surprised me was the play to third. Take the out at first base. Then the floodgates opened."
McAuley went quietly in its half.
After Wade reached on an error, Bailey popped out to second, Mack grounded out to third and Coulombe ended it with a ground ball to short.
"We're coming off having 15 hits, but not today," Ferrante lamented.
Libby was the story, as she had a winning performance with 15 strikeouts and just five hits allowed (she also gave up two walks and threw a wild pitch), but six unearned runs dropped her record to 1-2.
"She pitched tough, but (Westbrook) hit a couple good shots the third time around," Ferrante said. "We rely on our pitching."
Tibbetts improved to 2-1 by not allowing a run on three hits while striking out five. She didn't walk a batter.
Offensively, Bailey led the way with two hits, a run and an RBI. Galipeau's double was the game's lone extra base hit.
While Westbrook returns to action Wednesday at home against Kennebunk, McAuley travels to Biddeford Wednesday, hosts Portland Friday and welcomes reigning regional champion South Portland for a showdown Monday.