Cardinal Newman's High School's defense-minded Lady Cardinals made the most of their opportunities to disappoint Casa Grande's Lady Gauchos, 6-1, Thursday afternoon.
The score was definitely misleading. After six innings, Cardinal Newman led just 3-1, and the Lady Gauchos were still hopeful, coming off a promosing, but frustrating, sixth inning.
But in the top of the seventh, Kayla Douglas, the Lady Cardinals' best hitter, bombed a three-run homer over the left-field fence to squash the Casa Grande hopes.
The sad part from the Casa Grande point of view was that Douglas should never have come to bat.
With two outs and a runner on, Sarah Knight kept the inning alive by hitting a blooper that dropped between two Casa Grande defenders and the foul line for a single. That allowed Douglas, who had earlier hit three harmless infield rollers, to take out her frustration on a fast ball thrown by Casa Grande pitcher Courtney Ludlow.
Until that pitch, Ludlow had thrown a good game. Cardinal Newman had five hits until picking up four in the fatal seventh. Ludlow walked only one though those six innings and struck out three.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Newman pitcher Lexie Raash was not overpowering, but had the Lady Gauchos hitting mostly into the ground and mostly to shortstop Douglas, who made eight routine, but crucial, plays.
Casa Grande used sacrifice and guile for its only run in the first inning.
Sara Langdon led off for the Lady Gauchos by slapping a single to left. An out later, Heather Zeeb was safe on an infield error. With runners at first and third, Zeeb deliberately allowed herself to be trapped off first base. While she played pickle, Langdon, one of the fastest of the Lady Gauchos, dived home.
That was it for Casa scoring.
Not that the home team didn't have other opportunities.
After going quietly through the second through fifth inning, Casa Grande opened the fifth hopefull when Ludlow slammed a long single to right. A wild pitch advanced her to second, and she reached third on Samantha Stafford's bunt. The threat ended with a pop-up.
The Lady Gauchos made even more noise in the sixth, putting together two hits and a walk. The bloom was taken off that budding rally when Casa had a runner thrown out at third trying to take two bases on a bunt hit.
After Cardinal Newman pretty much put the game out of reach with its seventh-inning rally, Casa Grande made a last desperation attempt to extend the game, putting its first two runners on in the bottom of the inning on back-to-back hits by Ludlow and Carii Reinhard. Again a good start failed to provide a payoff, with Ludlow thrown out at home and the final two Casa batters going down on an infield bouncer and a fly to center.
Casa Grande is now 12-10 overall and 7-6 in North Bay League play with only a game Tuesday at Montgomery left on its regular-season agenda.