It has been an uncharacteristically rough start for O'Connell's softball team. With seven new starters in their lineup, the Knights entered yesterday's game against Bishop Ireton having lost three of their last four games, a stretch marked by anemic hitting and errors.
But O'Connell's young players came through, as the defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champions came from behind to win, 2-1 over Ireton, last year's conference runner-up. Sophomore pitcher Kelly Engman tossed a three-hitter and struck out 13, and freshman Colleen Carty drove in the game-winning run. With the victory, O'Connell improved to 5-4-1, 2-0 in the WCAC. Last year, O'Connell lost only four games.
"This is just amazing for such a young team with little experience," Engman said. "I hope we can build on it. It's such a great win because we came from behind, and got the hits when we needed them."
Bishop Ireton (6-3, 1-1) jumped to a 1-0 lead in the second inning when junior catcher Elise Lopez scored on a passed ball after leading off the inning with a double to deep left. That was the last hit Engman allowed.
In the bottom of the third, O'Connell junior Catherine Cahill led off with a base hit just inside the third base line, and advanced to second on a groundout. Sophomore shortstop Erin Marrone singled sharply to left to drive in Cahill and tie the game at 1.
"Once we had gone through the lineup, we had a better idea of what to expect," Cahill said. "We knew that we had to step up and hit the ball. Once one of us gets started, we seem to get into a rhythm."
O'Connell took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth when Carty's blooper into shallow right scored pinch runner Regina Duffy. Sophomore catcher Katie Nutaitis had started the inning with a single to right.
After yielding three hits and one run in the first two innings, Engman had nine of her 13 strikeouts in the final five innings. She held Bishop Ireton hitless and only once faced four hitters during that stretch. She out-dueled sophomore Chrissy Sborz, who allowed five hits and struck out eight.