POTTSTOWN >> Opportunities gained, opportunities unfulfilled.
That was the unhappy synopsis for The Hill School Saturday. The Blues, hosting archrival Lawrenceville School in the first of their two scheduled Mid-Atlantic Prep League games this season, saw victory beyond their reach in an 11-9 loss to the Larries at Jim Long Field.
The Hill had a chance to win the game in regulation time, getting leadoff batter Kelsey Staivecki to third with none out in the bottom of the seventh. But the 8-8 tie ended up undented, Lawrenceville getting the next three batters to force the extra innings.
The Larries went on to score three runs in their half of the eighth. In the bottom of the frame, the Hill was undone in part by an emotion-firing call at home plate where Kyli McKee, trying to score off Kelly Ebner’s triple to the fence, was ruled out for making contact with Lawrenceville catcher Megan Kucher, who was leaping to snare the relay throw.
“The runner has to slide on a play at the plate,” Larries head coach John Schiel explained. “Otherwise, it’s an automatic out.”
When play resumed after an extended discussion between Schiel, Hill coach Kristen Walter and the umpiring crew, Ebner scored off Alexa Giacche’s grounder to second base. But Lawrenceville got the third out on a fly ball to shortstop, ending the Hill’s hopes for a comeback win.
“I think the umpire made the right call,” Schiel said.
On the Hill side, Walter noted McKee was dealing with a leg bruise sustained earlier in the game. That issue, though not expected to impact her availability for future games, was also a factor in McKee being replaced on the mound by Meg Dempsey after three innings’ work.
“I think she was trying to protect herself,” Walter said of McKee’s approach on the eighth-inning scoring attempt.
While having a decided edge in hits (17-12), the Hill never had a bigger lead on Lawrenceville than the 2-0 advantage it took in the first inning. That lasted only until the Larries’ next at-bat, after which the Blues’ only other lead was the 8-7 edge they held through four.
“It’s tough. They (Lawrenceville) are a team that hits well,” Walter noted.
Ebner, Dempsey, Hannah Gallagher and Staivecki had the Hill’s most potent bats on the day.
Ebner’s 4-for-5 effort featured a pair of doubles and RBI hits in each of her first three at-bats — that in addition to four runs scored. Staivecki went 3-for-4 while Dempsey and Gallagher (both 3-for-5) had three and two RBI, respectively.
“After we struggled early on,” Walter said, “it was nice to see the girls get their bats on the ball.”
Giacche had another three-RBI day for the Blues. She and Ebner both scored in the third on a wild pitch by Lawrenceville’s Ciera Hoover, after Dempsey (triple) came in off Ebner’s single to straightaway center.
“There were so many big plays, and some mistakes,” Schiel said. “But our girls showed guts out there.”
Emily Matchin and Hoover (both 2-for-5) drove in pairs of runs for Lawrenceville, which twice led by as many as three runs. The Larries held a 5-2 edge midway through the third, then broke a 5-5 deadlock with two in the fourth.
“Our kids wanted it bad, and they got it,” Schiel said. “Fortunately, we came out of it with the win.”
McKee yielded four of the Larries’ hits and five of their runs in her abbreviated mound stint. Dempsey, who threw for the Hill Thursday, had two strikeouts against a pair of walks, tagged for eight hits and six walks.
The teams will be facing off again may 6 at Lawrenceville with a 4 p.m. start
“They (girls) will be fired up,” Walter said.
Schiel, for his part, doesn’t see the need for him and his coaches to get the Lawrenceville girls in the proper mindset for the rematch.
“The Hill’s always fired up to play us,” he said. “It’s a huge rivalry.”
NOTES >> Hoover threw close to 150 pitches in her complete-game stint. That was in the neighborhood of the combined pitch count for McKee and Dempsey. … Hoover made one of the game’s more notable defensive plays, spearing an Amanda Sprague line drive for the first out of the seventh. … Hill centerfielder Jamie Auerbach stood out on the defensive side by making a play on a fast-falling fly ball late in the game.