By Nelson Coffin
St. Paul’s School for Girls scored seven runs in the fifth inning to power past Chapelgate Christian Academy, 15-5, Wednesday afternoon in sunny and mild Brooklandville.
The victory helped the Gators remain atop the B Conference softball standings with a perfect 7-0 mark.
The game marked the first time the two teams have met since the Yellowjackets prevailed over St. Paul’s, 5-4, in last season’s B Conference finale.
This time the Gators’ bat were active against Chapelgate veteran starter Emily Venkatesen, who tried to overcome some shaky fielding behind her.
Chapelgate coach John Issac said that it was the Yellowjackets “inability to make simple defensive plays” that cost his team the most.
“We didn’t play our best,” Issac said. “But we’ll still have our shot (in the playoffs). We still have the championship, and they’ll have to rip it away from our cold, dead hands to get it.”
Chapelgate scored three runs in the first off St. Paul’s starter Kathe Hobbs, including an RBI by Venkatesen on a fielder’s choice and RBI singles by junior first baseman Sage Christianson and sophomore right fielder Ju Liu.
The Yellowjackets added to the advantage with on an RBI single by junior catcher Ellie Hennenburg in the second frame, although the damage could have been much worse if it wasn’t for a spectacular running catch by junior center fielder Rain Kesler off Venkatesen’s booming shot to deep left-center.
The hosts halved the deficit in the bottom of the inning when the Yellowjackets made three errors before Venkatesen struck out the side.
St. Paul’s tied it in the fourth on a couple of errors and then fell behind, 5-4, on Hennenberg’s triple to right that scored Venkatesen.
The Gators used a couple of bunts to start a four-run rally in the fourth that featured a single by catcher Abbi Klein to plate one run, a double by shortstop Emily Issing to knock in another and a two-run single by Hobbs.
In the fifth, Klein, Hobbs and first baseman Ayanna Gould, who crushed a homer, knocked in two run each to stretch the lead to 15-5 and end the game in walk-off style.
Hobbs was the winning pitcher for the Gators, allowing nine hits and five runs while striking out five.
Venkatesen suffered the loss, striking out six without yielding a walk.
St. Paul’s coach Vance Hobbs said that overcoming an early deficit is nothing new for the Gators.
“We’ve done it all year,” he said. “We’re a team from top to bottom.”
He said that his daughter had not pitched in a week before being touched for five runs.
“But she fought back and did what she was supposed to do,” he added. “And we swung the bats when it mattered.”