Tuesday, April 5, 2011
By Rich Barton
NJS.com Staff Writer
|Lauren Hozak did not allow a runner past second base for St. Mary's, which opened its season with a 1-0 win over Eastern Christian.
RUTHERFORD – Because of all of the rain and generally rotten weather that pretty much wiped out the preseason, the St. Mary’s (Rutherford) and Eastern Christian softball teams were not as game ready as they might have been. Their scrimmage schedules were reduced to just two apiece before they took the field for their season opener on Monday.
Neither had seen a lot of live pitching in game situations so St. Mary's used some small ball to get the ball rolling and take control of the game.
St. Mary's Amanda Crook and Luana Natalicio each dropped down bunt singles to get a big second inning started. The Gaels put six runs on the board in the frame and that was more than enough run support for senior right-hander Lauren Hozak. She allowed just three hits over five innings of work as St. Mary's cruised to a 10-0 win over Eastern Christian at Memorial Field in Rutherford.
"We were really amped up for this game and it was huge that we built a big lead in the first two innings," said Luana Natalicio. "It's a mental game and playing with confidence is really important. We just wanted to finally get the season going and we did it on a good note."
|Eastern Christian hurler Ashley Manger struckout 10.
The Gaels got on the board with a run in the bottom of the first after Megan Maffei slugged a leadoff triple and came around to score when Megan McCann was hit by a pitch to plate Maffei for a 1-0 lead. Eastern Christian hurler Ashley Manger struckout the final two batters to wiggle her way out of trouble, but it was only a temporary escape.
Crook led off the second with a bunt single and, after a sac bunt by Hozak, Natalicio also reached on a bunt single with two outs. St. Mary's caught a break when a fly ball was dropped allowing both runners to score. After a hit-by-pitch and a walk, Megan Macaluso looped a double to center to plate two more runs. Melissa Macaluso capped the inning with another bunt single. On the play, the ball was thrown away allowing her sister Megan to score for a 7-0 lead.
"We didn't field the bunt well and it hurt us," said Eastern Christian head coach Scott Grasso. "I think the lack of game action we've seen played a factor in that. I thought we did some positive things today, but to give up eight unearned runs is too much to overcome against a good team. We will have to learn something from this game and try to jell as the season goes on."
Hozak got ahead of nearly every batter she faced and did not allow a runner past second base all game. Natalicio put the game away in the bottom of the fifth. With a double off the fence in left-center to bring home Maffei the mercy rule
was envoked and St. Mary's had its first win of the season.
|Luana Natalicio reached base in all four of her plate appearances and finished 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored for St. Mary's
Natalicio reached base in all four of her plate appearances and finished 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored for St. Mary's (1-0). Hozak allowed three hits, struck out three, and did not walk a batter. Maffei was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and Melissa Macaluso had a pair of bunt singles. Overall, the Gaels had 10 hits, but only five of them left the infield.
Manger took the loss, but showed her strikeout potential with 10 Ks in just 4 1/3 innings of work for Eastern Christian (0-1). She also showed she could swing the bat with two of the Eagles' three hits, both doubles. Alexis Limatola also
had a base hit.
St. Mary's now has a win under its belt, but it will be much tougher to notch another one this week as it faces defending Non-Public B state finalist Immaculate Conception and perennial state power IHA before facing Hoboken in the Donna Ricker tournament over the weekend. While the schedule is daunting, it is one St. Mary's head coach Maria Fagan knows will only help the squad in the long run.
"Our schedule, especially in our league, is real tough and we are embracing that," said Fagan, a former standout at Park Ridge and at Division 1 Quinnipiac University. "If you have high expectations for your team, you have to play good competition. The weather has hampered us a bit, but it's been a problem for everyone. I think it actually helped us today because we were so excited to get out here and play a meaningful game. The energy level I was hoping to see was
there right from the beginning of the game and was constant throughout. I'm glad we played well today and got a win under our belt. We'll know a lot more about what we have to work on and where we are after this weekend, but this is a good
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