O’Donnell’s blast lifts softball
And for the Muhlenberg softball team, all it took was one big blast in its second game of the Centennial Conference playoffs against Dickinson.
With two outs in the bottom of the third, freshman Colleen O’Donnell, the ninth-hole hitter, lofted a fastball deep to left center. The ball kept drifting back and had just enough momentum to carry over the fence.
That home run, one of only two Mule hits on the day, both of which came from O’Donnell, proved to be enough as senior Ashley Brewer fired the 11th shutout of her career to move Muhlenberg to within one win of a record-tying fifth CC title with the 1-0 victory.
The Mules, who beat Washington 8-4 in the opener, await the winner of Sunday morning’s elimination game between Dickinson and Ursinus. Muhlenberg needs to win once, while the Red Devils or Bears would have to beat the Mules twice to claim the championship.
“I thought it was going to get caught,” O’Donnell said of her round-tripper. “And when it went over the fence I couldn’t believe it. We had some trouble with them last time. But today we made some adjustments, and they worked.”
It was Muhlenberg’s first win over Dickinson pitcher Allison Jordan, who pitched a perfect game against the Mules (24-15) during the regular season. It also offered some redemption for Brewer, who lost a tough, extra-inning decision to the Red Devils two weeks ago.
She induced a pair of inning-ending double plays to get the Mules out of the fifth and sixth, but Dickinson, which used single runs in the seventh and eighth to win at Muhlenberg during the regular season, saved its best shot for last.
After their leadoff hitter reached in the top of the seventh, the Red Devils opted for a sacrifice bunt to move her to second.
Freshman Chelsea Benjamin fielded the bunt and threw to classmate Erica Wenzel, who was covering first. The throw tipped off the top of her glove and into the air, but Wenzel was able to reach up and grab it before the runner got to the bag to secure the first out of the inning.
After the second out was made on a lineout, a sharp grounder was hit to senior Jess Kasza at short. Kasza could not handle the ball, and it trickled into left field. The runner from second rounded third and broke for home when the ball got away, but Kasza recovered in enough time to throw the potential game-tying run out at the plate to end the game.
“That was a great play by Jess,” O’Donnell said. “She never gave up on it, and that could have been the difference.”
Muhlenberg’s opener against Washington proved to be less dramatic as the Mules wasted no time getting on the board.
Their first batter of the tournament, sophomore Devon Barber, drove a 2-2 pitch just short of the fence in left center for a leadoff double. Two batters later, Brewer drove her in with a single over the head of the third baseman.
Muhlenberg added another run in the top of the second when Barber drove Benjamin home with an infield single. Two innings later, the Mules delivered what would prove to be the deciding blows.
Wenzel and junior Brittany Blohm each smashed two-RBI doubles and later scored on a wild pitch and an errant throw to the plate to stake Muhlenberg to an 8-0 lead.
But the Shorewomen rallied back with three in the bottom of the inning and one in the fifth to cut the deficit in half.
Washington threatened again in the sixth, but Brewer induced an infield fly and a weak grounder to second to work out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam and secure the win.
The pair of wins gives Muhlenberg 24 on the season, tied for the fifth-most in program history. But it's win No. 25 that the Mules are most concerned about.
“We couldn’t be in a better position,” O’Donnell said. “This is where we wanted to be, and now we’ve just got to come out tomorrow and win this thing.”
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