OXFORD >> The Oxford softball team pounded out 15 hits and played lights out defense behind starting pitcher Cece Figueroa as the third seed cruised to a dominant 10-4 victory over No. 7 Hatboro-Horsham in the District 1 Class 5A semifinals in front of a huge crowd Friday afternoon.
The Hornets (19-3) advance to Tuesday championship finals where, for the second straight season, they will square off against Ches-Mont League American Divsion rival West Chester Rustin. The Golden Knights squeaked out a 7-6 victory in last year’s title game.
“We would have been happy to play whoever got off the bus Tuesday,” said Oxford coach Josh Socash. “It’s just exciting to get back to the finals. That was one of our goals before the season and now we are going to try to reach the goal of winning it.”
Spearheading the defense was Natalia Donofrio, who made five putouts in center field, including a number of difficult running catches.
After giving up a run in the first when usually reliable leftfielder Sydney Kargulewicz stumbled when going back on a long fly ball from Alyssa Tooley, the Hornets answered back in a big way, putting up five runs in the bottom half of the inning.
They batted around, taking advantage of a couple of walks, a hit batsman, two-run doubles from Angela Beadle and Donofrio, and a two-run single from Kargulewicz.
“I try not to get too upset when I make a mistake and not get down on myself,” said Kargulewicz, who finished the day with three hits and three RBIs. “I just block that out, like I blocked out the crowd when all the kids from the school came over. I just try to play the way I always do and treat it just like any other game. I’m looking forward to getting my first chance to play in the district final.”
Ashley Flynn delivered a milestone during the first, singling to right center for the 100th hit of her career.
“I had absolutely no idea I was even close,” said Flynn. “My parents and coach knew, but didn’t say anything to me. I’m really glad it came in a game like this and not just during the regular season.”
The Hornets received hits from everyone in the order, led by Beadle (3-for-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2R), Kargulewicz, and McKenna Frank (2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI, 3R).
“This team has bonded so well,” said Beadle. “We’ve all played together forever, and work really hard. It feels fantastic to get back to the finals. It’s going to be great to get a chance at Rustin again, and turn around the result from last year. We’ve never played better softball than we’ve played against them this year.”
Figueroa picked up the win, allowing four runs on six hits. She struck out three and walked just one.
Tooley played a part in all four runs for the Hatters (14-9), coming around to score after the first-inning double, then keeping hopes alive, albeit briefly, with a monster three-run home run in the seventh.
Though the loss stings, the Hatters will have to have short memories. Having qualified for the PIAA tournament, they will meet top-seeded Upper Dublin in the third-place game on Tuesday.
“It stings, but the goal is states now,” said coach Jen Tooley. “We kept battling and put up three runs in the seventh. The girls played hard, hit the ball hard, but Oxford made the plays on defense. We just didn’t find the holes often enough. We just have to move forward from here.”
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