The Morris Catholic softball team was in the midst of its fifth game in five days on Friday, and things weren’t going well.
Entering the bottom of the seventh inning, the Crusaders trailed Parsippany Hills 6-2 and was seemingly headed for a fifth-straight loss.
But Morris Catholic rallied, scoring four runs highlighted by junior Kelly Malkinski’s game-tying, two-out single that sent the game into extra innings. In the ninth, freshman Sam Denboske completed the comeback, knocking in Malkinski with a walk-off double to give the Crusaders a 7-6 win.
“I had to swing at anything,” Malkinski said of her approach in the game-tying at-bat. “I knew if it was close I had to hit it.”
And hit it she did, lacing a hard single to right field on a 1-2 pitch which scored junior Kendall Gregory, who two batters earlier had reached on a three-RBI double to bring Morris Catholic within one.
In the ninth, Denboske was the hero as she followed a two-out walk by Malkinski with a rocket to left-center that allowed Malkinski to slide across the plate safely.
“I have been struggling lately at the plate so it was great to get a timely hit that we really needed,” Denboske said.
Denboske was also the hero on the mound as she was able to keep her team in the game after giving up a five runs in the fourth inning to make the score 6-2.
Her effort was rewarded with some terrific plays by here defense, a running theme for both teams on the day.
“Our defense made some great plays,” Morris Catholic head coach Mike Nicosia said. “We had a girl who wasn’t here today so we had some girls playing out of position and it was great. We preach defense wins and we had a tough week but they did well today. We told them this is what we have to do all year, solid defense wins games.”
One of the girls playing out of position was sophomore Christen Mills, who started the game in right field before moving to left in the third inning.
That move paid off in the sixth when Mills threw out a runner at home plate to complete a double play and end the inning.
In the other circle, Vikings sophomore Ali Walek was every bit as good as Denboske, giving up just two more hits on the day while striking out two more.
Walek retired Jessica Torsiello, who homered to dead center in her first at-bat, twice in the late innings, including once with the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh on a fielder’s choice to shortstop.
“Those were pressure spots and I give her so much credit,” Parsippany Hills head coach Chrissy Russell said. “She kind of learned her lesson last year, coming up to this level how tough she has to be to stay in games and she has kept us in a lot of games. I just thought she was great today.”
“We made some of the best defensive plays we have made all year,” Russell said of her team. “I think our top five plays were made today. They got one more hit, and credit to them. They kept swinging the bat and hits fell when they needed them.”
The Crusaders now look to use the comeback as a boost heading into their first round match up with Morristown-Beard in the Non-Public North B state playoffs.
“It is huge motivation for us,” Denboske said. “We really needed that after a long week.”