Having suffered two close losses in the teams’ regular season matchups — including one in which she gave up a rare home run — the sophomore ace was determined to keep the ball mostly down against O’Connell.
She executed her plan with success, mixing fastballs and drop balls with the occasional rise ball to lead No. 7 St. Mary’s Ryken to a 5-2 victory, ending O’Connell’s reign in the WCAC. Aughinbaugh also received support from a standout defense as 11 O’Connell base runners were stranded.
After watching O’Connell celebrate its 10th consecutive WCAC title last season, Aughinbaugh was doing the heavy lifting of the trophy at game’s end.
“We’ve been waiting for this all season,” Aughinbaugh said. “We all brought our ‘A’ game today. We fought as a team, and we just pounded.”
Aughinbaugh was pressured all game long, with at least one runner reaching base in every inning. With one out and runners on second and third in the second, she worked out of the jam with a strikeout and groundout.
Aughinbaugh gave up a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the fourth inning but escaped further damage when she induced a groundout. With pitches consistently landing in the bottom half of the strike zone, she allowed just two extra-base hits, and nine of her outs were recorded on grounders.
“It’s the best game I’ve thrown against them so far,” Aughinbaugh said. “And with my team behind me, they helped support me. I couldn’t have done it by myself.”
St. Mary’s Ryken (23-4) went down in order in the first inning, but freshman right fielder Emma Thompson (3 for 4) led off the second with a hard single to right and scored two batters later on Lindsey Keller’s sacrifice fly.
“When I’m up at bat, I’m not really thinking of hitting bombs,” Thompson said. “I just have to get the bat on the ball, and whenever there’s an open space or gap, I want to get it there.”
When the final out was recorded, Aughinbaugh rushed to junior third baseman Lindsey Heinze and jumped on her in jubilation as a team not named O’Connell (17-5) won the WCAC softball title for the first time since 2003.
“It feels amazing. I know I’m going to come back next year and want it again,” Aughinbaugh said. “We lost here last year, but I think we showed this year that we got it.”