HATBORO >> In softball, the home team usually has the advantage in having the last set of at-bats.
The visiting team does have one advantage however, provided it uses it right. The very first at-bat of a game can go a long way toward setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Lansdale Catholic junior outfielder Lauren Crim knew that as she dug in to start Wednesday’s Philadelphia Catholic League quarterfinal against Marisa Browne and Archbishop Wood.
Crim drew a walk in the first at-bat and later scored that inning as LC made the most of its chances on its way to upsetting the top-seeded Vikings 9-3 at Hatboro Little League.
“I think if we get off to a good start and we get runs early, we have all the confidence in the world,” Crim said. “We can hit the ball, we have really good hitters. (The walk) was really big because getting that first run, if Wood gets their momentum, they get going and we didn’t want that.”
“A lot of times you see that in a game, if the first batter has a good at-bat, it doesn’t matter if she gets a hit, if she just has a good at-bat, you see a little momentum swing,” LC coach Paul Suder said. “Their pitcher then knows she’s not going to be able to brush everyone right off there. It was a great at-bat by Lauren and I thought, set the tone.”
Crusaders pitcher Mary Picozzi did her job, limiting Wood to just one hit and the defense had her back for the most part. LC scored six of its nine runs with two outs and put most of the pressure on the Vikings, both offensively and defensively.
For Wood, not much went right. The Vikings committed four errors and Browne wasn’t able to make up for the extra outs enough to prevent the damage from building. On top of that, the Vikings lost starting catcher Lanie Boyk to an injury in the second inning, changing a lot of their gameplan.
“It changes the way Marisa is going to throw,” Wood coach Jackie Ecker said. “I had to be careful with the pitches we throw. The two catchers came in did the best that they could and that’s all I could ask of them.”
Aside from the walk, Crim went 2-for-4 and put together five strong at-bats. Picozzi had two RBI hits and every spot in the lineup reached base at least once during the game.
Shortstop Maggie Wunder sacrificed Crim to second, where the junior would come around to score on Picozzi’s RBI single. Crim was the run-producer in the second inning, hitting a double to score No. 9 hitter Casey Meenan.
Wunder would single to right, sending Crim home as Wood right fielder Sam Link came up firing. Link put a perfect throw on line to home, where Boyk made a great play to tag out Crim, but in the process hyper-extended her elbow.
It was a costly out for the Vikings, but it didn’t lose the game. What hurt Wood more than even the errors or extra outs was its lack of offensive production.
“We just keeping leaving runners on base and it’s been like that the last half of the season, we’ve left a lot of runners on,” Wood coach Jackie Ecker said. “We couldn’t get those key hits. Once you get down to the six, seventh inning, you really have to work super-hard.”
LC kept tacking on runs, plating three in the third inning with two coming on an outfield error, one in the fourth when Crim raced home on a wild pitch and three in the sixth inning. All the while, Picozzi and her defense did enough to keep Wood off-balance.
The hurler has all the tools to dominate the circle, but has struggled with control at times this season. Wednesday, she walked six batters but held the Vikings to just one hit and limited the Vikings to just two balls hit out of the infield.
“We hit the ball well and made the plays we needed to in order win,” Picozzi said. “I was just trying to throw my changeup for a strike and throw it in there for them to hit and let my defense make the plays. We made the plays when we needed.”
Wood threatened a couple times before finally breaking through in the fifth inning when an error allowed Jules Donchez to score. Donchez had a strong game offensively for Wood, drawing two walks and providing the team’s sole hit, a two-run single in the sixth inning.
By that point, LC led 9-1 and the Crusaders were playing with all the confidence in the world. Suder said his squad, which is the No. 9 seed in the tournament, has embraced its underdog role.
“We lost to Little Flower earlier in the year and we lost to Wood earlier in the year so we knew coming out today was going to be our day,” Crim said. “If we hit the ball and play good defense, we always have a chance.”
Getting to that point has been the major focus of the season. Once the Crusaders were actually able to get practices in, the improvement came and Suder knew it was going to take the course of the year for LC to hit its stride.
The lineup changed, Wunder returned from a knee injury, Picozzi became the No. 1 pitcher and different players got a chance to show their stuff. It’s added up to a playoff run that has LC in the semifinals next week at Arcadia.
“LC has a history of being really good and doing well in the PCL and we just really had a rough season,” Crim admitted. “We lost a lot of games that were close. We knew that if we came together as a team in the playoffs, we could do anything.”
“You almost wish the semifinals were this week,” Suder said. “When you get on a run like that you’re just ready to play.”
Wood will have to await its future. As the top seed in the regular season, the Vikings would advance to the District 12 5A title game unless another 5A team wins the PCL tournament.
Lansdale Catholic 9, Archbishop Wood 3
Lansdale Catholic 113 103 0 – 9 12 3
Archbishop Wood 000 012 0 – 3 1 4
WP: Mary Piccozi. LP: Marisa Browne. SO-BB: Picozzi 4-6, Browne 9-3
2B: Lauren Crim (LC), Mary Picozzi (LC), Rebecca Tiley (LC)
LC: Lauren Crim 2-4, RBI, 2 runs; Mary Piccozi 2-4, 2 RBI; Taylor Molettiere 2-4, RBI, run; Rebecca Tiley 2-4, 2 runs.
AW: Jules Donchez 2 RBI.
Top Photo: Lansdale Catholic’s Lauren Crim leaps onto home plate as Archbishop Wood catcher Ashley Sullivan lunges to attempt the tag during their PCL quarterfinal on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. (Rachel Wisniewski/For Digital First Media)