WESTVILLE — Marquette Catholic's softball team had more hits (2) in the seventh inning than they had in the entirety of the previous six innings (1) in their sectional opener against Washington Township on Friday evening. And somehow they were able to bring the tying run to the plate with two away in the top half of the seventh.
Despite their late, frantic push in the final frame, Senators starter Katelyn Majda fanned Emily Lasky for her 10th and final punchout to send Washington Township into today's sectional final against Class A No. 2 Morgan Township after a 4-1 victory over the Blazers.
"They didn't quit and that's all I can ask from them," Blazers coach Joe Leichtman said. "The impact that Summer's (Johnson) had on this team this year is huge. Without her, I don't know that we play a single softball game. We have no other pitcher. We're trying to develop some, but I can't say enough about her toughness."
The senior right-hander went 0-for-3 at the plate out of the No. 3 spot, but she kept the visitors on the scoreboard in the contest, throwing all six eligible innings and allowing just five hits, a couple of which didn't leave the infield, while striking out five and walking a trio of hitters.
Johnson's lone run from her offense came in the top half of the opening inning when Ally McConnell led off with a walk, stole second base, and then, after a sharp turn around third on a comebacker back to Majda inside the circle, scored as the Senators got caught sleeping for a second for a 1-3 putout from Mika Finney to make it 1-0 Blazers.
Washington answered with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the first when Olivia Follis followed McConnell's lead and led off with a walk, stole second and then scored on a basehit from sophomore lefty Morgan Spicer (2-for-3, 3B, RBI) to make it a 1-1 contest. Spicer later scored on the second passed ball on the inning during Jordan Sheets' at-bat two hitters later to give the Senators a 2-1 advantage.
"She's big for this team," Senators coach Jennifer Cassell said. "She does it all for this team as a utility player. She does great things for us at shortstop. She's got the speed and she can hit. Thank God we got her for a couple more years [laughs]."
After McConnell scored in the first and Sara Molina lined a shot into right field for a base hit, Majda shut the Blazers down over the next five frames, allowing one baserunner on a walk to Bri Moyer in the fourth with two outs. The Blazers didn't have a runner touch second base until Molina singled for the second time in the seventh and went from first to third base on a poke into the left center gap from Izabel Pacheco, who had the only hit for the Blazers not registered by Molina in the game.
"She did a great job for us tonight," Cassell said on her senior right-hander. "It's just every now and again, we struggle a little bit, but it's more with the umpires. (Our pitchers and catchers) are learning how to adapt to the umpires and what they're calling each game. We're teaching everyone. Katelyn and Jordan (Sheets) do a good job behind the plate and on the mound together as a team. I'm sad I'm losing them as seniors soon, but hopefully, we'll have them longer than just the Morgan game (today)."
As for Leichtman and the Blazers, the first-year head coach will already say goodbye to six seniors, including McConnell, a two-time state champion with the girls basketball team, and Johnson, the workhouse pitcher for the Blazers following the departure of Indiana All-Star pitcher Lauren McConnell after last season.
"They mean a lot to me," Leichtman said. "They broke me in as a coach. They tested my patience, but I also had a lot of fun with them. They made things easy for me with the transition because they've been around this program for a while and they helped this team transition with a new coaching staff. They made it a lot easier. It would've been different with just one or two seniors. They're great leaders. I'm glad they were my first group."
Reach Michael Whitlow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4169. Follow him on Twitter @couldbelikemike.
Class A Westville Sectional
Washington Township 4, Marquette 1
Ally McConnell scored the lone run for the Blazers in the loss.