Abbot, Butler lead Villa Maria to win state opener

Villa Maria Academy’s post-season softball run has been keyed by the performance from Maddie Abbot inside the circle combined with key defensive plays in the field and a clutch hit at the dish.

In steady rain at SpringFord High School on Monday, the District One champions used the same recipe in a 3-1 win over Conrad Weiser, the third place finisher from district three.

With the score knotted at 1-1, Villa had runners on first and second with Mary Cate Butler stepping up to the plate. After falling behind in the count 0-2, Butler evened the count at 2-2 before fouling off four consecutive pitches.

With rain falling harder, Butler drove the ninth pitch of the at-bat down the right field line just over the outstretched hand of Emma R. Price. As the ball rolled to the fence, Brianna Wright and Marissa Bruder circled the bases giving the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead. Trying to take advantage of the conditions, coach Claire Emplit sent Butler who was eventually tagged out trying to get back to third base after she realized she was not going to score.

“I saw the pitch going outside and I just wanted to drive with the pitch,’ said Butler. “She had nice downward and outward movement and had us off balance all day. I knew she would eventually throw me a perfect pitch and she did.’

“It was a really close game and we were having trouble getting her timing down,’ said Abbot, who finished with 10 strikeouts while allowing four hits. “For MC (Mary Cate) to come through was clutch.’

Emplit added, “Mary Cate is a smart hitter who knows what she is looking to hit. She knows what to do with two strikes to make sure she does not strike out looking. If she gets her pitch she can take it for a ride and that’s what she did.’

The win allows Villa to continue its season of firsts that’s included an Athletic Association of Catholic Academies (AACA) title; PIAA District One Class AAA crown (first since 2003) and a state playoff victory.

“It’s been a long time since we won the league; first district playoff title since 2003 and our first state playoff win,’ said Emplit. “It’s been fun and it’s been great to share with my first senior class.’

“This season has been so memorable,’ said Butler, a senior captain. “To go through districts and now have a state playoff run has been awesome. I started at Villa the same year Claire came in and our goal each year has been to get better and better.’

The maturation of Abbot inside the circle has certainly been a key to Villa’s success. While her defense has been in the middle of her success, a more confident Abbot has allowed team chemistry to develop.

“It has been so awesome to share this experience with Maddie,’ said Butler, who is the catcher. “She has grown each year and has acquired more pitches. Since I call the pitches it’s great we have developed a trust with each other.’

“Mary Cate is great,’ said Abbot. “We have been close since my freshman year and now that she is catching she is like a sister to me.’

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