EAST MARLBOROUGH—With ace pitcher Rachel Butler out with an injury, Avon Grove turned to sophomore Lexi Barnhart to handle duties in the circle against Unionville as the Red Devils tried to clinch their fourth Ches-Mont National title in the past five years. Barnhart was more than up to the task, holding the Indians (10-9) to just four hits as the Red Devils (16-3) cruised to a 10-3 victory and a division championship.
“Every year you set goals, and the first step in meeting those goals is winning the division,” said Devils coach Mike Diluzio. “The kids are really playing well. I didn’t really have to say anything to them today—they all knew what was on the line.”
The Devils jumped out on top in the first, plating a run when Allyson Wallauer (1 for 2, 3R) hit a two-out single up the middle and swiped second, coming around to score on an RBI single from Carly Raymond.
Raymond led off the fourth, and worked a base on balls. Then Avon Grove went to work with two outs once again. With Raymond on third, Megan Kristman beat out an infield single for an RBI. Brooke Salisbury followed and doubled to left to knock in Kristman. Brianna McKeown brought Salisbury home with a single to center.
“This was one of my first games starting as a pitcher,” said Barnhart. “Getting that big lead early on just makes things a little easier. You don’t put so much pressure on yourself when you know your team is backing you up the way they did.”
After Unionville got on the board with an unearned run in the bottom half of the third, the Devils blew things open with a four-run fourth. Syd Skrzypiec walked to lead off, moving up to second on a wild pitch. Mack Vansciver followed, and beat out a bunt, then Wallauer walked to load the bases.
With one out, Olivia Kunitsky cleared the bases with a double to the gap in right center, moving up to third on a failed attempt to throw out Wallauer at home. Kunitsky scored on an RBI single from Kristman.
“I just focused on hitting the ball hard,” said Kunitsky, who finished the day 2 for 4 with four runs batted in. “Especially knowing we had a couple players out, we all knew we’d have to step things up. We knew Unionville was a much improved team this year, so we really weren’t sure what to expect. It just feels great to be back on top of the division with a championship again.”
Barnhart went the distance for the pitching victory, allowing three runs—none earned—on four hits. She struck out three and walked five.
“Lexi came in knowing on the bus she was going to pitch, and just really got her self focused and ready,” said Diluzio. “I was a little concerned about her stamina because she hasn’t really pitched a full game for us all year. But she did an outstanding job. She kept them off balance, and Syd (Skrzypiec) called a great game behind the plate.”
Unionville didn’t just pack it in, though, and added a couple of runs in the sixth on singles from Madeline Frich and Jane Dreher, and a couple of Avon Grove errors.
With the loss, the Indians fall into a tie with Rustin at the top of the American division standings. The two teams split their season series, so if the regular season ends tied, the Indians and Knights will meet later this week for a one-game playoff.
“It’s frustrating because we’ve had so many close games we’ve lost against the best teams in the league,” said Unionville coach Carly DiVirgilio. “But we’ve come so far from last year. We’ve doubled our win total, we still have a chance to win the division title, and we’ve got girls playing their hearts out, diving for balls and just giving all they’ve got. We’re really moving forward in a big way.”
Avon Grove 10 Unionville 3
Avon Grove AB R H RBI Unionville AB R H RBI
Skrzypiec—C 4 1 1 0 Griffiths—CF 4 1 1 0
VanSciver—CF 5 1 2 0 Boorse—LF 3 0 0 0
Wallauer—1B 2 3 1 0 Deshaies—SS 3 0 0 0
Raymond—LF 3 1 1 1 Salisbury—C 3 0 0 0
Kunitsky—2B 4 1 2 4 Horan—P 1 0 0 0
Barnhart—P 4 1 1 0 Frisch—P 2 1 1 0
Kristman—3B 4 1 2 2 A Panati—3B 1 1 0 1
Salisbury—RF 4 0 2 1 D Panati—2B 3 0 0 1
McKeown—SS 4 0 2 0 Dreher—1B 3 0 2 1
Totals 31 10 14 10 Horne—RF 2 0 0 0
Totals 25 3 4 2
2B—Kunitsky, Salisbury 3B—Salisbury
Avon Grove 1 0 3 4 0 1 1–10
Unionville 0 0 1 0 0 2 0—3
Avon Grove IP R H BB K
Barnhart (W) 7 3 4 5 3
Horan (L) 3.2 8 10 4 2
Frich 3.1 2 5 3 1
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