BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEST POINT – The Holy Trinity Catholic varsity softball team is getting closer and closer to their first win.
After falling to Danville 13-12 Thursday night, the Crusaders (0-4) lost a heartbreaker to New London at home Tuesday night 5-4 in eight innings.
Freshman Mary Hellige held the Tigers (4-2, 3-0) scoreless through four innings, but ran into a bit of trouble in the top of the fifth. After getting Clair Jones to pop out behind the plate and Sofie Reighard to fly out in the infield for two outs, Elly Manning lined a single to center and then advanced to second on an error on the play.
HTC Head Coach Loren Menke intentionally passed all-state senior Layney Lloyd and then senior Kara Krieger ripped a two-run triple to left center. Ashlyn McSorley followed up with a single to score Krieger. Hellige would get Mariah Hartrick to strike out to end the inning two hitters later.
Neither team would score in the sixth inning, but New London would put up an insurance run in the top of the seventh, when Lloyd pushed a triple passed Jenna DiPrima in right field and came around to score on Krieger’s squeeze bunt.
The Crusaders would get out of the inning when McSorley would pop out to first with Krieger running on the pitch and Rachel Menke was able to double her off at first.
HTC responded in the bottom of the seventh to send it into extra innings.
DiPrima led things off with a single that went off the glove of pitcher Elly Manning and dribbled into left field. After Raquel Schneider popped out to first, Anna Sobczak took a pitch off her foot moving DiPrima to second. Brooke Mueller would then send a drive into center that wasn’t deep enough to advance any runners.
With two outs, Haile Cain singled just past McSorley at shortstop moving everyone up a base. Mary Hellige worked an 0-2 count for a walk to score DiPrima and then Kayla Box got down 0-2 and worked a 13 pitch at-bat for another walk to score Sobczak. Laura Mehmert would line out to second to end the inning with the bases loaded to force an eighth inning.
Menke said it was at-bats like Hellige’s and Box’s in the seventh inning with the game on the line that shows the girls are gaining confidence.
“Those were quality at bats. When you see them up there having an at-bat like that, it makes you feel really good. That’s tough to do for freshmen in that situation,” he said.
“And we’re not striking out a lot. We’re getting quality at bats and tonight we played a lot better defense than we have. You start putting those together and good things can happen.”
Hartrick led off with a single to right and moved to second on a throwing error on the play. Sophie Malott moved her to third on a ground out to short. Hellige would get Jones to fan for the second out, and then Sophie Reighard hit a line drive right at Hellige that went off her glove and trickled over second base to score Hartrick. Manning would ground out to Box at third to end in the inning.
DiPrima reached in the bottom of the eighth with a one-out single to right-center, but was forced at second on a rare fielder’s choice from right field off Raquel Schneider’s bat. Sobczak would ground out to short to end the game.
Hellige again went the distance for Holy Trinity throwing 109 pitches and getting four strike outs against three walks. She gave up 10 hits and five runs in the loss.
“Mary is learning to pitch at the varsity level,” Menke said.
“She’s seen nothing but junior high and jayvee batters. She knows she’s not going to blow it by them, but she’s learning how to pitch against varsity batters and it’s making a big difference.”
Elly Manning picked up the win for the Lady Tigers coming in in the bottom of the third and scattering three hits, while fanning three and walking three.
The Crusaders chased started Sophie Malott after two with New London down 2-0.
Schneider and DiPrima led the Crusaders at the plate with two hits each. Schneider had a double and single and an RBI. Mehmert, Mueller and Cain had the other hits for Holy Trinity.
The Crusaders take on powerhouse Louisa-Muscatine at home Wednesday with a junior varsity/varsity set starting at 5:30 p.m.