By Jeremy Balan
PACIFICA — All hyperbole aside, the St. Ignatius softball team lost by a matter of inches against Hillsdale in non-league action on Monday at Fairmont Park.
Down two runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning and runners at second and third, St. Ignatius sophomore third baseman Elena Vierra hit a soft liner into left field. The first run scored easily, but the second baserunner, St. Ignatius senior Tori Eng, was cut down at the plate to hold off a late Wildcats rally in Hillsdale’s 4-3 win.
Hillsdale junior catcher Lindsey Nielson blocked the plate perfectly and absorbed the impact of Eng, but dropped the ball applying the tag. As Eng was reaching for the plate, Nielson recovered the ball and tagged out the would-be tying run.
“[Nielson] did her job,” said Hillsdale coach Randal Metheany. “I was kind of disappointed the ball came out, but she stayed with it and made the play.”
With the remaining outs dwindling down and the sunlight quickly fading, St. Ignatius assistant coach John Vincent, who was also coaching at third base, felt the need for a gamble.
“I just took a chance, because it was so late in the game and we were having a hard time getting chances,” said Vincent, who was serving as head coach in the absence of St. Ignatius’ Karen Cota.
The Wildcats’ chances were limited due to a stellar pitching performance from Hillsdale’s Memphis University of Memphis-bound senior Jordan Richwood. After allowing two runs in the first inning, Richwood didn’t allow a hit for the next four innings and only allowed one baserunner on a Knights’ error.
“With Jordan, you coach differently, because she’s so dominant,” Metheany said. “I’m often amazed how much she can dominate. I know other kids are good, but that girl is unbelievable.”
Richwood held the Wildcats to just four hits while striking out 10 in the complete game win, but it was St. Ignatius’ own Division I college prospect that did the most damage against her.
Santa Clara-bound senior Jordan Newell went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored, and even the out she recorded was a lined shot right at Hillsdale shortstop Kaylin Stewart.
Still, Vincent knows the Wildcats will need more than just Newell’s contributions once the tough West Catholic Athletic League season begins.
“We have a hard schedule this year. We’re trying to play tough teams so we can compete in our league,” Vincent said. “[Newell] is our mealticket right now and she carries the load for us, but it’s the girls behind her that have to get some big hits for us to have success.”
H – Courtney Tyler singles, Kaylin Stewart scores
SI – Jordan Newell singles, Frankie Buonocore scores
SI – Tori Eng reaches on fielder’s choice, Newell scores
H – Tyler singles, Stewart scores
H – Lindsey Nielson scores on a wild pitch
H – Stewart doubles, Ashley Izumi scores
SI – Elena Vierra singles, Newell scores