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Oxford defeats District 12 champion Cardinal O’Hara in 5A softball state opener

Oxford pitcher Cece Figueroa reacts after the final out as they defeated Cardinal O’Hara in the first round of State playoffs Monday at O’Hara. (PETE BANNAN – DAILY LOCAL NEWS)

Marple Township – Oxford continued its late-season softball surge Monday, defeating District 12 champion Cardinal O’Hara 7-1 in the opening round of the PIAA 5A state tournament.

Hornet junior pitcher Cece Figueroa sparkled against the host Lions, hurling a complete game and lining two triples to deep left field in the middle of a couple of three-run rallies by Oxford.

Figueroa’s first triple came in the top of the first inning to cap a three-run rally; and her second triple, in the third inning, was a two-run shot that gave the visitors a 5-0 lead.

Oxford’s Cece Figueroa reacts is all smiles after tripling in two runs as they defeated Cardinal O’Hara in the first round of State playoffs Monday at O’Hara. (PETE BANNAN – DAILY LOCAL NEWS)

“On both at-bats, I worked the count a little bit, looking for the right pitch down the middle, and I was able to drive both of them,” said Figueroa. “I’ve been struggling a little at the plate, so these were real confidence boosters. I’ve been working hard on my hitting, I think I’m a little over .300 [batting average], so I’m happy with where I’m at today.”

The Hornets’ first-inning rally began with a one-out double to left center by Ashley Flynn and an infield hit by McKenna Frank. Flynn scored on a passed ball, then Molly Friel slammed a triple to deep left field to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. Figueroa’s triple made it 3-0.

Oxford’s (7) Ashley FLynn reacts after scoring in the first inning as they defeated Cardinal O’Hara in the first round of State playoffs Monday at O’Hara. (PETE BANNAN – DAILY LOCAL NEWS)

In the top of the third inning, Friel laced a one-out single to center and stole second. Emily Basilio drew a walk, then Figueroa blasted her second triple to make the score 5-0. Grace Allen’s sacrifice bunt scored Figueroa to give the visitors a 6-0 lead.

It was noteworthy that Oxford built its lead against freshman pitcher Hayden Sissons, who has struck out more than 200 batters this spring.

“We knew that Cardinal O’Hara was a really good team with a really good pitcher, so we prepared for that, and we really put the ball in play today,” said Oxford coach Josh Socash. “I told the girls, ‘If we can put the ball in play, we’ll be successful,’ and it worked out for us today. I’m really proud of our girls, proud of our effort.”

Oxford’s Cece Figueroa triples in the first inning as they defeated Cardinal O’Hara in the first round of State playoffs Monday at O’Hara. (PETE BANNAN – DAILY LOCAL NEWS)

Cardinal O’Hara (9-9) got its lone run in the bottom of the third inning when Sissons lashed a one-out triple to right center, then scored on a groundout to second base by Brigid MacGillivray. But Figueroa held O’Hara scoreless the rest of the way, with help from her defense.

“I was trying to throw strikes, get it in the [right] zone, and have my team back me up – they played very good defense,” said Figueroa. “It’s just the simple [defensive] plays that we’ve really got down. We just made it easy for us today.”

Oxford’s (2) Grace Allen turns a double play for the final out as they defeated Cardinal O’Hara in the first round of State playoffs Monday at O’Hara. (PETE BANNAN – DAILY LOCAL NEWS)

O’Hara put a couple of baserunners on in the fourth inning when Rylie Pellegrino led off with a single and Avery Groh followed with a single, her second hit of the day. Both runners moved up on a passed ball, but Figueroa got the next three hitters on a popup to the pitcher, a short fly out to left field and a strikeout.

In the fifth inning, O’Hara put a couple of baserunners on with two out but Figueroa got the next batter on a ground out to the pitcher.

Oxford’s Cece Figueroa triples in two runs as they defeated Cardinal O’Hara in the first round of State playoffs Monday at O’Hara. (PETE BANNAN – DAILY LOCAL NEWS)

Socash said, “Cece was good in the circle today. She’s not overpowering, but she’s got a good defense that makes the plays behind her. It was a good all-around team effort today. They all made some nice plays out there today – Grace Allen made a couple of nice plays today, Molly Friel [at third base] – they all made good fundamental plays.”

Speaking of defense, the game ended on a nifty 6-4-3 double play, Frank to Allen to Angela Beadle.

Oxford’s (18) Molly Friel slides safely into second as they defeated Cardinal O’Hara in the first round of State playoffs Monday at O’Hara. (PETE BANNAN – DAILY LOCAL NEWS)

With the victory, Oxford (15-9) now faces District 3 champion Exeter in the PIAA 5A state quarterfinals Thursday. Exeter defeated District 1 third-place finisher Upper Perkiomen, 5-3, Monday, to advance to the quarterfinals.

In the 2022 PIAA post-season, Oxford is now 4-1. Seeded seventh in the District 1 5A tournament, the Hornets defeated Pottsgrove 4-3 in the district opener; knocked off No. 2 seed Springfield 4-1 in the quarterfinals; romped to a 13-3 win against No. 3 Upper Perkiomen in the semifinals; and lost by one run to top seed West Chester Rustin in the district championship final.

Oxford pitcher Cece Figueroa in the first round of State playoffs Monday at O’Hara. (PETE BANNAN – DAILY LOCAL NEWS)

“We’ve especially turned it up in the playoffs, and it’s just exciting coming to each game, [believing] we’re going to win,” said Figueroa. “We’ve been hitting well [in the postseason], we’ve been seeing every pitcher and just hitting them. It’s great to have this hitting support – I can just go out there and pitch my game, knowing that I have a lot of team behind me, hitting and in the field.”

Socash said, “We’re peaking at the right time, getting some good solid defense and some timely hits.”

Cardinal O’Hara catcher Caitlin Jordan tags out Oxford’s (23) Angela Beadle in the second inning. (PETE BANNAN -DAILY LOCAL NEWS)

For Cardinal O’Hara, head coach Terry Coyne sees a bright future for his young Lions, who beat Franklin Towne Charter in the District 12 5A championship finals by a score of 18-0.

“We accomplished one of our goals this season, to win districts,” said Coyne. “We fell short today but we’re a young team, we only have one senior starting. I’m proud of our team this season. A lot of people were going to sell us short on what we were going to be able to accomplish this season, but winning districts sent a message out there that we can compete.”

 

Oxford 7, Cardinal O’Hara 1

Oxford                          303   001 0 – 7

Cardinal O’Hara          001   000 0 – 1

WP – Figueroa. LP – Sissons.

2B – Flynn (OX), Groh (CO)

3B – Figueroa (OX) 2, Friel (OX), Sisson (CO)

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