OXFORD >> The Hornets were still feeling the sting of last season’s 7-6 loss to West Chester Rustin in the District 1 5A softball finals when the Golden Knights visited Oxford Monday afternoon for a key Ches-Mont American contest. But nothing soothes the pain like victory, and the Hornets (8-2 overall, 7-2 Ches-Mont) parlayed four first inning runs into a 4-3 win over Rustin (8-3, 7-3).
“It was great to come up with that big first inning,” said Oxford coach Josh Socash. “Our defense really set the tone for us with that three-up, three-down first inning, especially getting (Kelly) Fricker, who is always a tough out. Then to come out and hit the way we did was a big boost.”
The win was the first for Oxford over Rustin since April 8, 2019 won a 10-7 slugfest.
“We’ve been waiting for this game ever since we lost such a close game to them in the district championship,” said Oxford pitcher Cece Figueroa. “We’ve all worked really hard, and this game has been on our minds constantly. We couldn’t be more excited to get the win.”
After Figueroa retired the Knights in order in the top half of the first, the Hornets went to work at the plate. Ashley Flynn worked a one out walk to get things going, and moved over to third on a double up the middle from McKenna Frank.
Next came Molly Friel, who stroked a ground ball to the right side. Rustin threw home, and caught Flynn in a rundown, but Flynn managed to slide in safely when a throw went high. After Frank came in to score when the outfield misplayed a fly ball from Figueroa, Emily Basilio brought in both runners with a single.
“Sometimes it’s tough to get going in the first inning,” said Figueroa. “But we’ve been hitting well right from the start lately. It’s definitely nice to be able to have a cushion to work with, especially when they started chipping away.”
Figueroa picked up the win in the circle with seven strong innings. The Oxford hurler allowed three runs on 10 hits. She struck out three, and issued two walks, both intentional passes to Fricker (1-for-2, double, run scored).
Paige Bentley, Lainey Lacey and Olivia Shuffler each posted a pair of hits for the Knights, who scored single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Jenna Kraft contributed with an RBI double in the sixth.
“We made some mistakes in that first inning and it cost us,” said Rustin coach Dennis Becker. “We played great after that, but just didn’t hit the way we know we can. We just have to continue to battle, put together productive at bats, and play good defense. I can’t be upset over one or two plays that didn’t go the way we would like.”
The Ches-Mont American is shaping up to be a tough, three-team race, with Rustin, Oxford and Unionville all very much in the hunt for the division crown. The Longhorns have a win over the Hornets, with the second game coming next week.
“I just told the girls that this was a really great win, but it’s still just a regular season game,” said Socash. “It really doesn’t mean a thing if we don’t take care of the next game.”