It may have been the most dreary of conditions for a softball game Rebecca Drake has had to endure to date, but she was clutch when it counted.
“You have to play to the end, because you never know what’s going to happen,” said Drake, who delivered the game-winning hit with two on and two outs in the bottom of the seventh to push Monsignor Donovan past Pinelands, 7-6. “In that spot, I was hoping to get it done, and it felt good to get that hit.”
With the Wildcats (16-2, 10-1) up by a run heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Griffins (11-1, 9-1) mounted a rally when Kaylee Hoeler led off the at-bat by reaching on an error, before Emilie Zuhhowski, running for Hoeler, went to second on a ball hit to right field by Jennifer Rivers, who was tossed out at first by Madison Dancisin.
Leadoff batter Nikki Davis then singled to center to put runners at the corners before she stole second. After Pinelands hurler Naomi Stas got a strikeout, Drake came through with a grounder that skipped past a diving Corinne Huber at shortstop and slowed down in the wet grass in left field.
Davis raced around third and scored standing up, with head coach Debbie Schwartz not far behind with her arms in the air in celebration.
With the two runs, Drake also became the pitcher of record, after taking over in the circle for starter Courtney Tylutki, who gave up several runs in the top of the sixth as Pinelands took the lead. Drake ended up pitching the final two innings, allowing a hit and a run while striking out two.
“I just wanted to do my best to pick up Courtney in that situation,” Drake said. “I knew I had the team behind me, and we just had to find a way to come back.”
With the temperature hovering in the mid-40s, a stiff, 25-mph wind whipping through the field and a light rain falling on and off throughout the contest, conditions weren’t exactly ideal for a softball game. But Donovan came out in the bottom of the third to grab the initial lead.
After Rivers singled and an error allowed her to reach second, Davis slashed a double down the left-field line to score Rivers for a 1-0 lead. The Griffins added three more in the fourth.
Davis, who was 4-for-4, started things when she slapped a ball that went for an infield hit to bring in Hoeler, who had reached on a fielder’s choice and ended up on third from an errant throw that went into dead-ball territory, before Alexis Krempa, who was running for Rivers after she singled, scored on a single by Sam Broo. Drake and Tylutki then walked to bring in Davis for a 4-0 advantage.
After the Wildcats scored their first run when Dancisin walked and crossed the plate on a double to right-center off the bat of Stas, Donovan regained its four-run lead when Kelcy McGeehan crushed a solo home run to left-center to lead off the bottom of the fourth.
But Pinelands rebounded in the top of the sixth, grabbing the lead with five runs. Huber started the rally with a walk before Shannyn Herron reached on an error and Kurstin Binshedler singled to load the bases for Lexi Carman, who singled to right field to bring in Huber to make it 5-2.
After Drake replaced Tylutki in the circle, Nicole Burke walked to score Herron and keep the bases jammed for Dancisin. Drake fanned Dancisin, but a wild pitch during the at-bat allowed Binshedler to score and advanced the runners to second and third for Stas, who singled to center to make it a 6-5 game.
McGeehan was in on another big play in the top of the seventh. With Huber on second, Herron hit a grounder to third base and Tylutki fired to first for the out. But as Huber tried to take third McGeehan raced over from short, took the throw from Mackenzie Bakker and slapped the tag on Huber for a double play.
“Pinelands is a good team and always gives us great competition,” McGeehan said. “This is a huge win for us, because we’ve made a statement that we belong on the field with the best teams in the conference.”