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Ahern’s slam lifts Vikings

OXFORD — It was almost unfathomable that the West Chester East softball team were even in the situation, but down to its last out in the top of the seventh inning, they were down a run to Oxford, despite having a 7-0 lead through four innings.

The Vikings (2-0 Ches-Mont) had the bases loaded with sophomore catcher Molly Ahern, still looking for her first varsity hit, at the plate. Ahern came through in a loud and dramatic way, belting a shot to deep left field for a grand slam to lift East to an 11-8 Ches-Mont League victory Tuesday.

“I have three girls that can play catcher,’ said East coach Chuck Linsday. “Dani (Latare) has been doing a great job, but I wanted to get Molly a few innings. I was comfortable with Molly in that situation — I knew she’s a big strong kid who was going to hit the ball hard somewhere, and she did.’

Kristen Fuertes got things going for the Vikings with one out in the seventh with a bloop single to shallow center. Amelia Lark then smacked a ball down the third-base line, the throw sailed into right field, putting runners on second an third. Amilia Andraos was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Leah Ritchey followed and she also hit a ground ball to third, but Abby Fields made the easy throw home to erase Fuertes for the secone out.

“I was so nervous coming up to bat,’ said Ahern. “If I didn’t get a hit, we were going to lose the game because there were two outs. But as soon as I made contact, I knew I got enough of it to score at least two runs and put us ahead.’

The Vikings took advantage of some unsteadiness with the glove by Oxford (0-2 league) in the early going. After both Steph Batog and Kyra Bond reached base on dropped third strikes in the first, Fuertes doubled them both in. East added another three runs in the second on singles from Andraos, Ritchey and Latare, along with three Oxford errors. Unearned runs in the top of the third and fourth put the game at 7-0.

“With just four girls returning on varsity, it’s going to take some adjustments to playing at this level for the younger girls,’ said Oxford coach John Green. “But they never got down on themselves, and just kept pushing. I couldn’t be more proud of the way they played today and the effort they gave.’

After pushing across a pair of runs in the fifth, the Hornets came all the way back with a huge sixth inning. Fields kicked off the rally with a single. Kayla McKee worked a walk to make it first and second.

Elise VanZyl brought Fields home with a single up the middle, moving up to second on the throw home. With runners on first and second, pinch-hitter Brit Smyth notched her first hit of the season, a line shot to right center that plated two. Singles from Jordan Fieth, Tori Kinsella and Caitlyn Darczuk capped the six-run sixth to put Oxford ahaead, 8-7.

“That was Smyth’s first at bat of the season,’ said Green. “To show that kind of composure with two strikes to drive a ball to the opposite field like that just shows the kind of confidence these girls are all playing with.’

Oxford put the first two hitters on to start its half of the seventh. Lindsay decided to bring in Feurtes to relieve starter Olivia Rogers. Oxford then found themselves in a bases-loade, two-out situation, but Fuertes was able to end the game on a strikeout.

“Give Oxford credit, they really pushed us until the end,’ said the Batog, who finished the afternoon 3-for-4 with two runs scored. “We lost a lot of key players from last year, so we’re just figuring out how to fill those spots. But I think we’re doing a great job of playing as a team, and when our backs are against the wall, we know how to respond.’

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