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Pitching, defense the key as Wilmington Charter edges Saint Mark’s in DIAA softball: Photo gallery

Wilmington Charter's Natalie Nycz lays down a key sacrifice bunt in the second inning. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

MILLTOWN — Kate Hoban held Saint Mark’s to just one hit, and an unearned run in the second inning was enough as No. 11 Charter School of Wilmington advanced in the DIAA state softball tournament with a 1-0 second-round win over the sixth-seeded Spartans on May 19.

Each team had a runner reach in the first inning, but neither could score. The Force took the lead in their half of the second without a hit. Natalie Fusco walked with one out. She was sacrificed to second by Natalie Nycz, and, with two outs, was running on a Juliana Paoli popup that was dropped, scoring without a throw.

That was it for the scoring on the afternoon. Defense took center stage for the Force, as Hoban struck out just one batter, and that was the Spartans’ first batter of the game. Early in the contest, Ella Gandolfo made a diving catch to rob a Spartan of a hit. Jaida Church made a nice catch on a line drive in the third, and third baseman Fusco caught a line drive in the fourth. The fifth inning belonged to Wilmington Charter shortstop Marlayna Capaldi. She snagged two line drives, sandwiched around an assist on a ground ball.

In right field, the Force’s Julia Sauder lunged to catch a sinking line drive off the bat of the Spartans’ Ryleigh Thomas to end the sixth. Hoban retired the final 17 Spartans she faced.

The lone hit for Saint Mark’s belonged to Pia Perrone, who singled down the left field line to lead off the second. Eleanor Newton walked with one out, but Hoban began her game-ending run by getting the final two outs.

For the Spartans, Thomas and Carly Maxton were excellent in the circle. They allowed just three hits combined. Maxton, who pitched the final five innings, struck out 13 Force batters to go along with another by Thomas. Of the other two batters Maxton got out, one hit a ground ball to second base, and the other popped up to first.

Wilmington Charter (13-7), winners of seven straight, will travel to Georgetown to meet No. 3 Sussex Central on Saturday at 11 a.m. in a quarterfinal matchup.

The Spartans finished the season 12-6.

All photos by Mike Lang.