By Donald Daniels
Ever since a heartbreaking one-run loss to Chapelgate Christian in the B Conference softball championship last season, St. Paul’s was on a mission to get redemption.
The Gators not only captured the coveted glass bowl with a 4-1 victory over a feisty St. Vincent Pallotti (13-3) squad, they also finished the year undefeated.
St Paul’s (13-0) got tremendous performances from everyone who took the field, but it was pitcher Kathe Hobbs who truly stood out.
The sophomore righty went the distance only allowing one run with eight strikeouts. Hobbs’ outing was even more impressive considering the fact that was sick heading into championship game.
“I wanted to be out there for my team, I would go to school and go to practice and just power through,” she said. “If my team wants me there, I will be there for them.”
“She is a fighter — and always has been,” her dad, St. Paul’s coach Vance Hobbs, said.
In the first inning, St. Paul's junior Abbi Klein doubled and made her way to third after Emily Issing grounded out to first base, although Hobbs’ popped out to end the threat.
In the top of the second, Panther sophomore Ysabella Monzon-Osorio walked, but was forced at second on Colby Cureton's bunt.
Cureton then stole second and third before Hobbs fanned two Panther batters to escape the jam.
St. Paul’s scored first first when Ayanna Gould walked and scooted home on an Anna Hjortsberg's RBI double.
Rachel Katzenburg's single moved Hjortsberg to third before she crossed the plate on Maressa Cuthrell's RBI double.
Klein's single scored Katzenburg for a 3-0 SPSG lead.
“The pitcher threw ball right in my favorite area and I was like yeah, let’s go, let’s get this going,” Hjortsberg said.
Monzon-Osorio got two popouts and a strikeout to quell the rally.
SVP freshmen Kiara James singled and used sound base running after groundouts from TyNiah Dates and Corenna Brogden to reach third, from which she scored on a wild pitch to cut the Gator lead to, 3-1.
The Gators regained their three run-advantage in the bottom of the fourth when Issing drove in Cuthrell with a single.
From there, Hobbs and the Gator fielders kept the Panthers off the bases by making plays, including a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch by Issing in the top of the sixth.
Hobbs retired the final three batters in the seventh that ended with a strikeout to clinch the championship.
“We are very lucky to have the girls we have on this team and we have a great chemistry,” Kathe Hobbs said. “I just know if I make a mistake in the field my teammates are there to back me up and we can come back from it.”
“Last year we lost this game by one, so to come back here and win it all is beyond words,” Hjortsberg said.
“We knew we need a crooked number to beat them," Vance Hobbs said. "They are a good team and I wanted a higher number, but Kathe just threw an outstanding game."
“There was a lot expectation of our part, when you are trying to become the first team to win a championship you don’t really have an expectation set yet,” Pallotti coach Lauren Donaldson said. “I don’t think we were loose as we normally are, but I think we rose to the occasion. It wasn’t our best game, but they have nothing to be ashamed of and this gives us motivation for next year."
Even though the Our Lady of Mount Carmel softball team only had ten players on the roster for most of the season, the meager numbers didn’t stop the Cougars from dominating the C conference.
That domination continued on Saturday as Mt Carmel routed Park, 21-1, to earn the program's second title in three years.
Mt. Carmel finished the season with a perfect 10-0 conference mark.
“At our first practice we emobided this principle called 'hold the rope.' The line of the story is if you are about to fall off a cliff and there was only a rope, who would want at the other end holding it,” Mt. Carmel coach Liz Hipple said. “The object of that was to get everyone on the team to trust each other and the girls embodied that all season — and that's what has driven our success.”
Park freshmen Bernie Berner' single and steals of second and third base put her in position to score on a wild pitch the the Bruins' lone run of the game.
OLMC sophomore pitcher Stephanie Chaney didn't allow a run after that mistake, though, and sophmore Jordan Smith gave the Cougars (12-3) the lead in the bottom of the first on a double to knock in Demi Conner and Ashley Conway with no outs.
Park pitcher Katey Cooney was able to get out of the inning with two groundouts and a pop out to keep the score at 2-1.
“We have a lot of young players on our team, so once we got those first inning championship jitters out, we leveled out and went to work,” Hipple said.
Chaney found her rhythm and was able to retire the next three Park batters in order at the top of the second.
Mt. Carmel created a massive cushion for Chaney in the bottom of the second by scoring nine runs before an out was recorded.
Smith added to her big day when she blasted a three-run homerun over the left field fence to make it 12-1.
“When I first went to bat I was thinking ‘I don’t need to hit a home run here,’ just a base hit. Since we had people on base, we just needed the RBIs,” Smith said. “Then when I hit it, it felt so good and it wasn’t until I got to second base that I realized that I hit it out.”
Although Berner got her second hit of the game and was able to steal her way to third in the third, she was unable to score when Gabby Harris popped out to end the inning.
Conner padded the lead with a two-run double in the bottom of third, scoring Emily Beck and Alex Snodgrass, to increase the Cougar advantage to 18-1.
“We practice hard every day because we knew we didn’t have a lot of players, but we came together as a team and now we are champions,” Smith said.
Park came into championship looking to win its first softball title since 2003.
The Bruins entered the playoffs as the sixth seed and defeated third-seeded IND in the quarterfinal and second-seeded Oldfields in a semifinal in route to the final.
That effort had Park coach Breanna Nation beaming.
“I just told my kids that no one expects us to be here and you have nothing to lose, might as well have fun in the final games, and they surprised everyone including me,” Nation said. “I know we didn’t win, but we just played in the championship game and that is something that we should be pretty proud of.”