Visiting Cardinal Newman broke open a tight softball contest with three runs in the top of the third inning against hard-luck pitcher Hayley Olsen and the Lady Cardinals went on to defeat St. Vincent, 5-2, in the Lady Mustang's season opener Thursday afternoon.
The match up between Empire large and small school Catholic teams on the artificial surface at St, Vincent created a bit of added interest that was reflected in a sizable crowd on the last comfortable day in February.
A critical infield bobble with the score at 2-2 set the stage for a two-run single to right field by Ellie Filice of the Cardinals in the fateful frame after Olsen nearly got out of trouble with no further damage. Olson retired two consecutive batters on ground balls struck in the direction of St, Vincent third baseman Hannah Upton.
Upton made several clutch plays during the game. including a quick look at the lead base runner in the third inning that temporarily kept things tied. Two of the runs in the inning turned out to be unearned.
Olsen went five innings for the Lady Mustangs, and absorbed the loss, giving up five hits while striking out two. Four first game errors made almost every inning a bigger challenge for the junior right hander.
Newman got a single run with two outs in the first inning when former Mustang infielder Vanessa Hall hit a soft drive that bounced off of the tip of the glove of leaping St. Vincent second baseman Morgan Selmi for an RBI.
Sophomore Hannah Starlatte finished the game with two hitless innings for St. Vincent, and got help from the Mustang infield that turned a quick double play on a ground ball to up the middle. The double play combination of shortstop Ursyla Baumgarten and Selmi swiftly turned the play, showing mid season form.
St. Vincent scored both of its runs in the bottom of the second inning off winning pitcher Lexie Raasch after Upton roped a long double that cleared the left field fence on the first hop. Alexis Torres then grounded a sharp single into right field that plated Upton. She advanced to second on an outfield miscue.
Torres picked up a sign by coach Don Jensen and sprinted for third base a couple of pitches later which forced a wild throw that went skidding down the line allowing the hustling sophomore to come around and score. The productive inning gave St, Vincent a short lived 2-1 lead.
It proved to be the only major threat on the afternoon for the Lady Mustangs as Raasch tightened the screws by allowing only one base runner in the final three innings. First-year player Raasch wound up allowing four hits and walking only one batter to lead-off the game in the first varsity start of her career.