Softballers eek out 4-2 victory over Central Crossing
MOUNT VERNON — The number one Division I high school softball team in the state of Ohio may have passed its biggest test of the season. The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets got a bit of a scare against the visiting Central Crossing Comets, but they found a way to win, defeating the Comets, 4-2, in Wednesday’s Division I sectional tournament game.
Mount Vernon pitcher Hope Straight tossed a one-hitter, striking out 13 and walking four, but it took her an inning to get her rhythm. Straight struggled with control in the opening inning, giving up a walk and then, hanging a change up, which Central Crossing’s pitcher Megan Tittle drove over the left field fence. That homer was the only hit off of Straight in the game.
“We knew, coming into this game, that (Central Crossing) was a very good team,” said Mount Vernon coach Mike Marcum. “They were better than they were ranked in the Central District. At least, that was my opinion. Their coach (Rona Dorsey) had an advantage because she has worked with a lot of our girls, privately. Pitching-wise and hitting-wise, she knew some of them. It’s been a while since she worked with them, but she does know them.”
Down 2-0, it looked like the Jackets would rally quickly. Straight reached on an error and, later, advanced to third on a passed ball. She scored on an RBI single by teammate Macee Marcum (2-for-3, two RBIs). The Jackets, however, would get just about all they could handle from hard-throwing Tittle (six innings, eight hits, five walks and six Ks). Through the first three innings, all of the Jackets’ outs were on fly balls, pop-ups and strikeouts. They also got a bit of a scare when a Tittle pitch hit Straight in the helmet. Fortunately, she was OK. Straight, who was also intentionally walked twice, reached base in all four of her plate appearances without the benefit of a base hit.
Still down 2-1 in the fourth, Mount Vernon shifted gears. It was the bottom half of the lineup that ignited the Jackets’ offense. Mount Vernon’s Bryn Elliott (3-for-4) laid down a bunt single. Teammate Savvi Blubaugh (2-for-4) followed with a bunt single of her own. Later, Straight walked to load the bases. Then, with two out, Macee Marcum was hit by a Tittle pitch to drive across Elliott with the tie run. Tittle hit three Mount Vernon batters in the game.
“We were just trying to hit it too hard and I was like, ‘I’ve got to get on base,’” Elliott said. “I just thought a bunt was what we needed.”
The 2019 Jackets have had a knack for coming up with just what they have needed, no matter what the situation.
“We’re a dual threat,” Coach Marcum said. “We can hit the ball. We can shove it down your throat or we can play the small ball game. I decided it was time to play the short game. Their first baseman was playing back so, I didn’t think they could get Bryn. Then, I had Savvi do the same thing, because she’s fast, too. We have a multi-dimensional team.”
In the meantime, Straight found her groove. From the second inning, onward, only two Comets’ batters reached base against Straight — both on walks. She no-hit the Comets over the final six and two-thirds innings of the game.
“I just needed to readjust and learn the ump’s strike zone,” Straight said. “From there, I pitched my A-game and, mentally, I had to stay tough, because I have a team behind me that will back me up.”
In the fifth, Mount Vernon’s Madi Burdette (a single and two walks) drew a walk with one out. That was followed by another Elliott bunt base hit. The next batter up, Blubaugh, doubled to score Burdette to put the Jackets on top, 3-2.
“We just want to win so badly,” Elliott said. “We’re a really good team and we are all positive toward each other. I think that helps a lot. That helps us get through the bad things that might happen. We haven’t been behind too many times and it’s good to know that we can fight back when we need to.”
Mount Vernon got a very important insurance run in the sixth, when Elliott got a 2-out RBI single to drive in teammate Carlena Fiorilli, who came in to pinch run for Macee Marcum. It was the first little bit of breathing room for Straight, who finished strong, retiring the last eight batters she faced. She set down the final 19 of 20 Comets’ batters in the game.
“We always believe in each other,” Straight said. “That’s a big part of winning. If you don’t believe in yourself and your softball sisters don’t believe in you, it’s going to be hard to win any game. When we were down by two runs, my teammates never stopped believing in me and they continued to back me up.”
The Jackets will move on to play Pickerington North, which defeated Olentangy Orange, 14-2, in their sectional match. The Jackets and Pickerington North will square off this coming Monday at 5 p.m. at a site yet to be determined.