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Phoenixville breaks through late, tops Pope John Paul II 3-1

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PHOENIXVILLE >> Phoenixville just could not figure out the puzzle that was Pope John Paul II pitcher Ashley Remmington.

Off-balance swings, chasing pitches and not controlling the count yielded five frustrating frames that had the Phantoms dangerously close to another PAC loss.

In the sixth, however, the Phantoms finally broke through.

Susan Duncan accounted for the game-tying RBI while the Phantoms added two more insurance runs in the bottom half of the inning to secure a 3-1 victory over visiting Pope John Paul II Tuesday afternoon.

“We weren’t helping ourself at all,” Phoenixville head coach Jennie Anderson said. “Our plate discipline was not good throughout the first five innings. We were going up with the count 0-0 and we were swinging at balls high. 

Phoenixville's Lainey Michaud throws to first to try and nab the Pope John Paul II runner during the late innings of Tuesday's 3-1 victory. (Sam Stewart - Digital First Media)

Phoenixville’s Lainey Michaud throws to first to try and nab the Pope John Paul II runner during the late innings of Tuesday’s 3-1 victory. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

“It was frustrating but we kept at it and made some adjustments. (Remmington) was throwing a lot of outside curveballs so we tried to take it to right field more often and change our batting style.”

Needless to say, the adjustments worked.

Duncan’s RBI single in the sixth that scored Lainey Michaud served as a dose of instant healing for a team that had collected two hits in the first five frames and had stranded a runner at third in the first three innings.

Hitting and discipline became infectious as the Phantoms scratched two more runs across the board via a Katie Rutledge hit by pitch (scoring Jamie Deni) and a wild pitch that scored Duncan a batter later. The three-spot in the sixth was enough to garner the Phantoms their first PAC-10 victory of the young season, and overshadow a budding pitcher’s duel between Remmington and Phoenixville’s Jess Eldridge. 

Duncan finished the game 3-for-3 from the plate. Kelly Knapp and Michaud also collected a hit, Michaud’s double in the sixth helping spark the Phantoms’ tide-turning inning. 

“We just had one or two hits and then everyone started to get behind it,” Eldridge said.

“The snowball effect,” Duncan added. “I just wanted to get the ball in play and get the runs over and get on base.”

“It’s one inning that we tend to make a couple of errors and we pile them on each other,” PJP head coach Amanda Knight said. “But I told them, they win that inning it’s a different game.”

Remmington, backed by the early run support that came via an Amanda Butera triple that scored Gabby Simms in the first, showed flashes of brilliance in her first start of the season. The righthander kept the Phantoms’ hitters off balance through the first five innings, working in her curveball and devastating change-up to get six batters down via strikeout while allowing two hits in the first five frames. 

“Ashley is a great pitcher, I’ve always been able to use her,” Knight said. “She’s confident this year so it’s really helping her on the mound.”

Eldrige was not to be outmatched, however. 

Pope John Paul II's Ashley Remmington delivers to the plate during the first inning. (Sam Stewart - Digital First Media)

Pope John Paul II’s Ashley Remmington delivers to the plate during the first inning. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

Settling in after her bumpy first inning, the righthander turned on cruise control, allowing three hits the rest of the way while registering six strikeouts in the final six innings. Eldridge finished with eight strikeouts and improved her ERA to 1.75, good for fourth in the PAC-10.

“Jess has really become a top-notch pitcher for us,” Anderson said. “From freshman year to now, she’s improved vastly. It’ great to see. At the beginning, their (PJP) top 3 was hitting the ball real well and then Butera hit that long one. But she settled in and that’s what she had to do. One thing about her is that she doesn’t let anything get to her. She just goes with it. That’s a good quality for a pitcher to have.”

“Something always seems to happen in the first inning and then I start to settle down,” Eldridge said. “I just have to eliminate that (going forward).”

NOTES >> Simms led PJP with two hits in the loss. … Phoenixville left seven runners on base to PJP’s five.

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