Cheverus beats McAuley on the diamond
PORTLAND—While it lacked the intensity of their encounters on the hardwood, Monday afternoon's softball "Holy War" between rivals Cheverus and McAuley at Shea Field had its moments.
And most of the moments were highlights produced by the host Stags.
Early in the game, Cheverus senior ace Brittany Bell was perfect, setting down the first nine Lions she faced.
The Stags offense did its part, as unheralded junior shortstop Olivia Mull discovered her stroke, tripling home a run in the second, then, as part of a five-run, two-out uprising in the third, tripling home three more to help Cheverus open up a 6-0 advantage.
While Bell eventually proved mortal on the hill, surrendering a pair of runs, she delivered the exclamation point with her bat, crushing a home run and the Stags went on to a 7-2 victory.
Bell got the win by striking out a dozen, Mull had four RBI and Cheverus improved to 2-0 on the young season, dropping McAuley to 0-2.
"It was a good team effort," Bell said. "I'm proud of the team. We're really coming together. We totally get fired up (to play McAuley). They're a rival. We wanted to beat them."
Entering Monday's contest, McAuley had won six of the 10 previous meetings, but last year, Cheverus downed the host Lions, 3-1, in eight innings.
The Stags opened the 2014 season Friday with a 12-1 victory at Deering, while McAuley lost a 13-inning marathon to visiting Marshwood (7-5) in its first game.
Monday, Cheverus took advantage of its opportunities and went on to an impressive win.
Bell set an immediate tone by fanning Lions pitcher Sam Libby and second baseman Kim Fisher looking, then getting freshman catcher Ally Tillotson to rip a drive to center which junior centerfielder Josie Bradshaw managed to corral.
Libby got sophomore second baseman Sophia Giancotti to ground out to short on the first pitch of the bottom of the first. Senior rightfielder Katie Randall then grounded into the hole, but McAuley shortstop Maddy Beaulieu made a nice play to get Randall by a step. Senior first baseman Libby DesRuisseaux delivered the game's first hit, a single to center, and Bell walked, but Libby escaped the jam by inducing Bradshaw to ground out to third.
Bell remained strong in the second, getting first baseman Taylor Whaley to line to second, Beaulieu to strike out swinging and third baseman Lillie Donovan to bunt out to third.
Libby started the bottom half by getting senior Emma Engelman to ground out to short and junior catcher Margaret Rigney to look at strike three, but junior third baseman Casey Simpson ripped a triple to right-center and Mull followed with a deep drive to left, over the head of Jill Ma, for an RBI triple and Cheverus had a 1-0 lead.
For Mull, who last played competitively in the sixth grade, it was a huge dose of confidence.
"I got two strikes and Coach (Maureen Curran) talked to me," said Mull. "She made me feel better. That gave me a lot of confidence."
Mull's hit didn't come as a surprise to the Stags.
"We told 'Oliv' that as soon as she gets a good hit, she won't stop and she proved that today," Bell said.
"She needed that little boost of confidence," Curran said. "She had some great at-bats in the preseason and against Deering the other day. I knew once she got a hit, the floodgates would open."
Libby stranded Mull at third by getting Giancotti to pop out.
Bell remained perfect in the top of the third, as she got centerfielder Ashley Littlefield to bunt out to Simpson at third, fanned rightfielder Marisa Goshe looking and Ma swinging.
Cheverus then broke the game open in the bottom half, with some help from the Lions.
Libby got Randall to ground out to short and fanned DesRuisseaux to seemingly put her team on the verge of a quick inning, but Bell drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch, was replaced by pinch-runner Brooke Dawson and trouble ensued.
Bradshaw grounded to Donovan, but her throw to first was awry, putting runners at second and third. Next up was Engelman, who dropped a bunt that Libby fielded, but by the time Whaley got back to the bag, Engelman beat the throw and Dawson scored. Rigney then beat out an infield hit to score Bradshaw and make it 3-0. After Simpson drew a walk to load the bases, up came Mull again.
Again, Mull got a pitch she liked, crushed it to left over Ma's head and this time, the bases cleared, as Engelman, pinch-runner Izzy Hilton and Simpson all came home for a commanding 6-0 advantage.
"I was pretty nervous, but once I hit it I felt good," said Mull, who dedicated both of her triples in honor of her mother's impending birthday.
Libby got Giancotti to ground out to end the inning and her stint on the mound was complete.
"We gave them five outs, maybe six (that half inning)," lamented Lions coach Robbie Ferrante. "They put the ball in play. They're tough. Better than I thought."
McAuley got its bats going in the fourth, as Libby led off with a bloop single, was sacrificed to second and after moving to third on a throwing error by Bell, she scored on a ground out by Whaley. An error by Mull kept the inning alive, but with runners at the corners, Donovan fanned and the score remained 6-1.
Bell got the run right back in the bottom half against Whaley, who took over on the hill for the Lions.
After Randall grounded out to second and DesRuisseaux grounded out to third, Bell got a hold of a pitch and sent it deep to left-center. The ball carried over the fence for a home run, making the score 7-1.
"It felt really good coming off the bat," Bell said. "I just wish my Dad was here to see it. He's been waiting to see me hit one."
Whaley ended the frame by getting Bradshaw to ground out to new first baseman, senior Lauren Coulombe.
In the top of the fifth, Littlefield led off with a double to right. After Goshe popped out and Coulombe struck out swinging, Libby ripped a single to center, scoring Littlefield to make it 7-2.
"We hit better the second time around, but it was too late," Ferrante said. "We didn't quit, that's what I was happy about."
Fisher also singled, to left, and Tillotson came to the plate with a chance to really cut into the deficit, but Bell struck her out looking to end the inning.
Whaley struck out the side in the bottom half, fanning pinch-hitter Rylee Day swinging, Rigney looking and after giving up an infield single on a bad hop to Simpson, who promptly stole second, Whaley got Mull to chase strike three.
Whaley tried to start a rally in the sixth with a leadoff double off the glove of Randall, but Beaulieu struck out on a 3-2 pitch, Donovan popped out to DesRuisseaux at first and after Littlefield reached on an infield single, pinch-hitter Mackenzie Leonard lined out to Giancotti to strand two.
Whaley got Giancotti to swing at strike three leading off the bottom of the sixth. After Randall singled to right and DesRuisseaux singled to right-center, Bell walked to load the bases, but Bradshaw hit a grounder to short and Beaulieu came home for the force out, with Tillotson making a nice scoop on a low throw. Engelman then popped out foul to Tillotson to leave the bases loaded.
Bell returned to her dominant form in the seventh.
After getting Coulombe and Libby looking, Bell fanned Fisher swinging to end it and Cheverus celebrated its 7-2 victory.
"It's awesome to get off to a start like this," Bell said. "We're young. This gives us confidence."
"I'm really happy with the way things have started off," Curran said. "We still have a lot of players who are inexperienced. We have some really good athletes who lack softball IQ. I'm really excited to see where they go as the season progresses.
"We have one returner in the infield from her position last year, Libby. It's been a real adjustment for Sophia to move to second from short. That's a really good spot for her. Her athleticism really shows. Casey's moved from catcher to third base. She made several athletic plays today. Then there's Liv Mull, who is arguably playing the most important role in the infield. She's gained confidence. I'm really waiting to see her peak. Josie's the only returning outfielder, so we have a lot of inexperience out there."
Bell improved to 2-0 on the young season by allowing just two runs (one earned) on six hits. She didn't allow a walk and had 12 strikeouts, giving her 30 so far this spring.
"I felt really good," Bell said. "I know I have my team behind me and we've fielded really well. When you're comfortable with who's behind you, you feel confident. I felt like my screwball was working really well. My curve was a little off."
"I think Brittany has a lot of confidence in her defense this year," Curran said. "She knows they'll get the work done behind her."
Offensively, DesRuisseaux, Mull and Simpson all had two hits. Simpson scored twice, while Bell, Bradshaw, Dawson, Engelman and Hilton each touched home once. Mull had four RBI, while Bell, Engelman and Rigney all drove in one. The Stags had a whopping five extra base hits.
McAuley got two hits apiece from Libby and Littlefield, who both scored. Libby and Whaley had RBI.
Libby fell to 0-1 on the season after giving up six runs (just one earned) on five hits and three walks in three innings. She did fan two. In relief, Whaley gave up just one run on four hits and a walk in three innings. She struck out four.
"Sam has trouble in the cold weather," Ferrante said. "I wanted to come back with Taylor Saturday, but I had to make the change."
Back in action Wednesday
McAuley seeks its first win Wednesday when it welcomes Windham. After playing at Westbrook Friday, the Lions meet the Stags again, this time on their field, Saturday afternoon.
"We'd like to get in the win column," Ferrante said.
Cheverus plays host to Marshwood Wednesday, then visits McAuley.
"Marshwood is always a good game," Curran said. "We've played them close the past two years, so we're excited for that."
The Stags know what it's like to get off to a fast start, as they were terrific in the first half of the 2013 season, then stumbled, but unlike last year, they hope to remain consistent throughout.
"We have to work on small things," Bell said. "We have great leaders this year. My fellow seniors are amazing. I learn a lot from them, so it must be great for the younger kids. I'm excited about the season."
"I think we have a good chance to make the playoffs this year," said Mull. "I'm feeling good."
"We need to get better at everything, especially defense," Curran added. "We'll need to iron some things out. I hope we don't fizzle out like we did last year."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Cheverus-McAuley results
McAuley 2 @ Cheverus 0
McAuley 9 @ Cheverus 1
@ McAuley 13 Cheverus 12
@ Cheverus 6 McAuley 3
Cheverus 13 @ McAuley 0 (5)
@ Cheverus 15 McAuley 6
McAuley 3 @ Cheverus 1
McAuley 10 Cheverus 9 (8)
McAuley 9 @ Cheverus 3