Malvern – Villa Maria Academy was trailing Unionville 4-1 going into the bottom of the sixth inning Wednesday. But that didn’t worry the host Hurricanes at all.
“We’re a sixth-inning team,” said Villa Maria senior second baseman Brianna Wright. “We’ve come back in lots of games in the sixth inning this season.”
Wright’s one-out single in the bottom of the sixth triggered a four-run rally that gave Villa Maria a 5-4 lead, and eventually, a 7-6 win in nine innings.
The Hurricanes (12-2) twice came back from deficits Wednesday. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Villa Maria sophomore first baseman Liz D’Ascenzo came to bat as the Hurricanes’ last hope, with the hosts trailing 6-5, two outs and a runner on third.
Instead of making the final out, D’Ascenzo roped a single to left field to tie the score and give the hosts new life. D’Ascenzo has been a tough out for the Hurricanes, and is currently batting . 368.
“This game really showed our character,” said D’Ascenzo. “When I came to the plate, everyone was cheering me on – you could feel the energy, and I knew all of my teammates had my back. I knew I had to help the team, there was no other option, and I stayed focused, stayed calm.”
Villa Maria head coach Nikki Hartshorne said, “It takes a certain skill set to keep fighting in extra innings, and we owned every moment at the plate today, we got our teammates’ backs every time we made an error. There were so many key players for us today.”
The Hurricanes drew first blood in the bottom of the first inning when shortstop Marissa Bruder lined a double to right center, moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored on Wright’s sacrifice bunt down the first base line.
Unionville (4-11) then rallied for four runs in the top of the third inning with the aid of their top hitters. With one out, Indian pitcher Taylor Crittenden lined a single to left, then Unionville left fielder Analise Griffiths (currently batting .400) beat out a bunt single toward first base. On a 3-2 pitch, Unionville center fielder Olivia Hojnacki (batting .396) cracked a double into right field to tie the score at 1-1, then teammate Melanie Hammond (the Indians’ top hitter at .422) poked a single to center to make it 2-1. Hojnacki and Hammond later scored on a two-out error.
Unionville head coach Carly DiVirgilio said, “Our bats have come alive the last few games (the team is currently batting .312), and our outfield has gotten better. And Taylor’s been pitching well for us lately.”
Crittenden kept the hosts at bay until the bottom of the sixth inning, which is where the Hurricanes came in.
“We always say we’re a sixth inning team, that’s when we pull ahead,” said Villa Maria left fielder Ana Ciarrocchi, who batted cleanup Wednesday and is currently batting .538. “In one game a couple of weeks ago, we were losing after five innings, and [infielder] Kate Spellman said to [Hartshorne], ‘Don’t worry, we’re sixth inning people.’ And we rallied and won the game, and now that’s our [motto].”
With one out in the sixth, Wright stroked a single to center, then Ciarrocchi punched a base hit to left. Villa third baseman Fran Delviscio (who currently leads the Hurricanes with 17 RBI’s) smoked a double into the left field corner, scoring both teammates to make it 4-3.
Lisa Becker then lined a single just past shortstop, and Sarah Gosselin (running for Becker) stole second. D’Ascenzo’s double to center scored both runners and Villa Maria took a 5-4 lead.
In the top of the seventh, it was Unionville’s turn to rally. With two outs and the bases empty, Crittenden cracked a double to left center, then Griffiths tied the score at 5-5 with a double to right center.
In the top of the eighth, Unionville went ahead 6-5 when Hammond reached second on an error and scored on a single to right by Anna Deshaies (who is currently batting .386 with a team-leading 17 RBI’s).
In the bottom of the eighth, it was Villa’s turn to rally. Ciarrocchi led off with a single to right, and took second on an error. Delviscio pounded a shot to deep left field that was caught by Griffiths for the first out. Ciarrocchi moved to third on a groundout, then D’Ascenzo’s two-out single saved the day for the Hurricanes.
Villa Maria starting pitcher Alyssa Viscardo was still battling on the mound in the top of the ninth inning, and finished the game throwing 125 pitches. She struck out six batters (though none after the sixth inning) and to date has struck out 114 batters in 85 pitched this season with a 2.39 ERA.
“Alyssa kept giving us pep talks during the game,” said D’Ascenzo.
Viscardo worked out of a tough jam in the top of the ninth inning. After two quick outs (the second on a diving stop by Wright), Crittenden lined a single to center, then Griffiths poked a single past shortstop on a 2-2 pitch. The dangerous Hojnacki came to bat, and on a 1-2 pitch hit a fly ball to right for the final out of the frame.
Viscardo said, “Bri and Reilly [Wright] made some nice catches out there today. Kate says we’re sixth-inning people, so I thought we’d come back [to win].
“It was a little windy today, but I think the wind made my curve ball move more, and the curve is my favorite pitch.”
In the bottom of the ninth, the Hurricanes made their winning rally. With one out, Miller was hit by a pitch (on a 1-2 count), then stole second. Bruder hit a single to center, and took second on the throw home, while Miller held at third. Wright came up, and on a 2-1 pitch, hit a deep fly out to left that scored the winning run.
“I knew that all I had to do was make contact, I trust [Bruder and Miller] as baserunners,” said Wright. “With one strike on me, I thought the next pitch would be a good one to go after, and it came in inside and low, and I made good contact.”