BRANDYWINE HUNDRED – Olivia Ellis had 13 strikeouts and allowed just five hits as Padua defeated Concord, 5-1, in first-round action in the DIAA softball tournament Saturday afternoon.
Ellis, a senior, kept the Raiders off-balance throughout the game, holding Concord hitless into the fourth inning. She mixed a nice fastball with a change-up that caught Concord’s batters off-guard. It is a pitch she said she has been working on.
“I worked on a change-up, and that’s what we threw a lot today to make them more off-balance. We didn’t want to go one or two pitches the whole time; we wanted to mix everything in,” she said.
Sarah Raab collected Concord’s first hit, a double to lead off the fourth, but she could advance only to third. Mary Plasmier tripled with one out in the fifth but could not score.
Padua coach Pete Boyer said Ellis executed the plan to keep the bases empty so that Concord’s big hitters, Jessica Fyock and Rachel Pritchard, could not inflict heavy damage. “We knew they were going to be able to hit the ball, but being able to limit that really helps, and that’s what she was able to do.”
While Ellis was busy quieting the Concord hitters, her team applied the pressure on offense all game long, going down in order in just one inning, the sixth.
The Pandas scored twice in the first to set the tone. Alexis Brooks singled to right field to drive in Hannah Williams, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the game, and Kierstin Fallers, who blooped a double to right. It remained 2-0 until the fifth, when Francesca Marinaro, a courtesy runner for catcher Cam Simendinger, came home on a throw that went out of play as she slid into third.
Concord, the seventh seed that finished a fine season at 15-4, finally broke through in its half of the sixth. With two outs, Fyock dribbled a single down the third-base line. Courtesy runner Lauren Moser came around when the next hitter, Pritchard, launched a double over the head of the leftfielder.
The Pandas added two insurance runs in the seventh in similar fashion, with some aggressive baserunning. Fallers walked and stole second. Shannon McGee reached on an infield single and rounded the base toward second. While she was in a rundown, Fallers crossed the plate, and McGee got back to first safely. Brooks followed with a single and rounded first, and McGee scored before Brooks was tagged out heading back to first.
Ellis finished the game by striking out the side in the seventh.
The Pandas probably should have scored more runs as they had runners in scoring position in the second, third and fourth who did not cross the plate. Boyer said the coaches have been emphasizing offensive pressure, and it showed on Saturday.
“Once you put the ball in play and you put that pressure on, good things happen for you. We were just extra-aggressive. We could have had a few more two-out hits with runners in scoring position, but riding behind Liv and making sure they made the plays, sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t,” he said.
The Pandas (13-6), who are the 10th seed in the 16-team tournament, will travel to second-seeded Laurel and Delaware’s best pitcher, Regan Green, on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. Boyer said his team is ready for the challenge.
“We’re excited to play Laurel. Two years ago, we lost to them 1-0 in the semifinals when Regan was coming around, so I feel real confident. The way we put the ball in play, we put pressure on every single inning. So if we do that, then we’re going to be right in that game,” he said.
Ellis seconded her coach. “We’re really at our peak right now and we’ve worked really hard to get to where we are,” she said. “All the girls on the team have worked so hard, in the field especially, and it showed today. They make all their plays. They practice really hard, and that’s why.”