By Nelson Coffin
Every time things look bleak for Mount de Sales Academy’s softball team, the Sailors find ways to make the sun break through like they’re playing in the Mojave Desert.
Just a couple of weeks ago, coach Ken Magersupp’s club trailed Archbishop Spalding, 11-2, before rallying for a 17-16 triumph by scoring three runs in the seventh inning capped by senior catcher Allison Cluster’s second double of the game.
On Monday afternoon in Catonsville, Cluster and her never-say-die teammates overcame an 8-1 second-inning deficit to beat McDonogh, 10-9, on Julie Rowe’s walk-off single in the eighth inning
Cluster blasted a clutch homer in the seventh to forge an 8-8 deadlock to send the game into extra innings before the defending champs retook the lead, 9-8, in the eighth on second baseman Emma Lynch’s single.
In the bottom half of the inning with one out, shortstop Laurna Heathcott knocked in the tying run on a double to left, motored to third on freshman reliever Cheyenne Beayon’s sacrifice fly to right and scooted home on Rowe’s safety to help her team be on the verge of securing the top seed in the upcoming A Conference playoffs.
The Sailors (9-4, 6-1 conference) can claim the top seed with a win over John Carroll on Wednesday, although Magersupp stressed the fact that the road to the championship is “wide open” this season.
McDonogh (11-3, 5-2) wraps up its conference schedule by hosting Spalding (7-3, 4-2) while Mount de Sales is in Bel Air battling the Patriots (4-7, 1-5).
“We have a (championship) goal, and we’re trying to reach it,” Magersupp said.
The Eagles came out swinging in the opening inning while scoring six runs against Sailor starter Lindsey Tolle, although four of those were unearned after some shaky fielding allowed the visitors some extra at bats that they used to inflict some early damage.
Shortstop Harper Allee-Press plated the first run on a sharp double to left before right fielder Lauren Fish’s double knocked in two more runs.
Third baseman Abby Blake made it 5-0 on a single to left after what should have been the third out. The sixth run crossed the plate after Rowe, playing an unfamiliar position while filling in for the ill Olivia Davidson at third base, dropped a pop fly.
She would make amends, big-time, in the game’s final at bat.
The Sailors nicked McDonogh starter Kearstyn Chapman for an unearned run in the first before the sophomore slugger led off the second with a booming home run to left for a 7-1 cushion.
Three batters later, first baseman Andrea Ottomoro’s single made it 8-1 and there were still no outs.
Cluster then initiated a caught stealing when she threw behind the runner to first baseman Sophia Ameur, who fired a strike to Rowe at third to catch McDonogh senior catcher Madison Gemmill trying to advance.
Tolle then fanned Fish and retired Abby Nevin on a come-backer to wiggle out of the jam.
Chapman breezed through the next three innings while allowing just one hit.
Tolle blanked the Eagles in the third and then gave way to Beayon, who did not allow a run until the eighth when the ITB runner came home on Lynch’s single.
Meanwhile, the Sailors finally got to Chapman in the fifth, scoring runs on an error, singles by Heathcott and Beayon and on Ameur’s double to make it 8-5.
Heathcott and Beayon drew Mount de Sales to within a run in the sixth on back-to-back RBI singles, setting the stage for the final comeback.
“I had some nerves,” Rowe admitted about her final at bat. “But I was just trying to look for my pitch.”
Cluster said that she was “scared” to face her club teammate Chapman in the seventh.
“There was a lot of pressure, but I knew I was going to get a hit,” she added.
McDonoogh assistant coach Sydney Shera, filling in for head coach John Folfas, said that her team did not make some of the plays in the field that it normally makes.
“But we fought hard,” she said. “We were just unable to adjust to their second pitcher (Beayon).”