UPPER DUBLIN >> Upper Merion needed a game like the one it played Monday.
The Vikings were coming off three tough losses in a row, albeit three losses where they felt like they were close to breaking through. Thanks to a big third inning and some good pitching, they were able to put it all together and pick up a needed win.
Upper Dublin made it tough, but Upper Merion managed a 7-4 win on the Cardinals’ field Monday afternoon.
“Everybody stepped up and did their job,” Vikings coach Missy Toto said. “It was nice, we needed that, especially after a couple rough games. We played Villa Maria and Upper Perk last week, we hung with them and were looking to make that final push.”
At the end of last week, the Vikings lost to Pope John Paul II 12-7 after leading most of the way, marking their third straight setback after winning their season opener. Still, they didn’t waver and believed that their hitting, defense and pitching would come together sooner rather than later.
Pitchers Kayla Warren and Olivia Barr did their part on Monday, striking out nine hitters between them, the defense made a couple plays and most importantly, the bats delivered when needed. While Toto is in her first season coaching UM, the Vikings have a lot of players back from last season.
“We’ve been working a lot on hitting since last year we sometimes struggled with our hitting,” Vikings center fielder Katelyn O’Brien said. “We’re really getting our hitting down so seeing that come together on the field is good for our confidence and hopefully we can continue it the rest of this week.”
While Upper Merion got a needed win on Monday, the Cardinals are now in a spot where they could use one. After winning their first game, the Cardinals have lost three straight and have struggled to put together a consistent game in any of those setbacks.
There have been flashes, but UD hasn’t put it all together yet.
“We’ve worked countless hours since September, three days a week since November so they’ve gotten the reps in, the instruction and the work so they have to put it together,” UD coach Heather Boyer said. “It has to come from within.”
Upper Merion got all the offense it would need in a six-run third inning that saw 10 hitters go to the plate. First baseman Moira Ryan led it off with a walk and though she was erased at third on a fielder’s choice, it started the Vikings up.
Third baseman Emily Reid hit an RBI single, Colleen Quinn scored on an error and a single by starting pitcher Warren brought home Reid and Lauren Del Giudice. O’Brien delivered the second big hit of the inning, a two-run base knock that plated Warren and Alexis Ettore.
In total, the Vikings laced four hits and drew three walks in the frame as they went ahead 6-0.
“Our last game, we did a lot of over-thinking at the plate,” O’Brien said. “This game, we focused on calming down at the plate, keeping a level swing and just seeing the ball.”
The Cardinals got two back in the bottom half of the inning when Meghan Muth led off with a double and scored on an error and Gretchen Wolpert drove in Sarah Sharp. Warren was able to hold the Cardinals to just runs to finish her three innings of work.
Toto feels her team is at its best when both pitchers are able to come in and throw to their strengths, as they did Monday. Warren hit her spots early and had UD’s batters a bit off-balance while Barr came in with a little more speed and tuned it to six strikeouts over the final four innings.
“We’ve used both in almost every game and we’re more successful when we are able to use both,” Toto said. “Kayla has a lot of confidence and Liv, she has a little less experienced but she’s so composed on the mound that nothing ever gets to her. She finishes off strong and it works the other way, when Liv starts she gets us off to a good start and Kayla closes it out with her steady consistency.”
Upper Dublin got a good relief effort out of Julia Wolf, who returned from an injury to pitch four innings of one-run ball. Wolf rang up two batters and gave her team a chance to get back into the game.
“We’re working her in gradually but for her coming in off the (disabled list) so to speak, she did really well,” Boyer said. “She started to locate her pitches, especially her fastball and made some pitches when I needed her to, which was very important.”
The Cardinals scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh with Wolpert’s triple scoring Sharp prior to an error bringing in the other run.
Upper Merion recorded eight hits, with No. 9 hitter Katelyn Barr going 2-for-2. O’Brien had a good day at the plate with two hits and three RBIs, the last coming on a seventh inning sac fly to score Olivia Barr after the pitcher’s leadoff double.
“If I saw a pitch that was there and I could hit, I went for it,” O’Brien said. “Their pitchers threw good pitches right down the plate and when I saw one, I went for it.”
Toto felt her team is starting to get comfortable, especially after being limited by the weather during preseason and hoped Monday’s game would allow the players to settle down and trust themselves. She sees plenty of potential in this group, especially offensively but the team needed to see it translate to the field.
“We can see the improvement from last year,” O’Brien said. “We really needed this, our losses to Upper Perk and Villa, they’re both good teams but they’re still tough losses because were right there. This should get us back in the swing of things. I think it’s going to be a good year for us.”
UPPER MERION 7, UPPER DUBLIN 4
UPPER MERION 003 00 1 – 7 8 2
UPPER DUBLIN 002 000 2 – 4 6 2
SO-BB: UM – Kayla Warren 3-2, Olivia Barr 6-0; UD – Erin Gallagher 2-3, Julia Wolf 2-0. 3B: Gretchen Wolpert (UD). 2B: Colleen Quinn (UM), Olivia Barr (UM), Meghan Muth (UD). Multiple hits: Katelyn Barr (UM) 2-2, Katelyn O’Brien (UM) 2-4, Gretchen Wolpert (UD) 2-4.