Jefferson beats Girard in nine innings

JEFFERSON – Attribute it all to a positive outlook.

Jefferson sophomore Deanna Comp had a good understanding of just how much was riding on her at-bat in the ninth inning of an All-American Conference matchup with visiting Girard.

Comp didn’t let the situation get to her delivering the game-winning hit in the Falcons’ 5-4 nine-inning victory over the Indians.

“When I stepped up, I knew I had to have a positive attitude,” Comp said. “I knew I had to have a clear mind. I couldn’t worry about striking out or how I was swinging the bat. I couldn’t doubt that I was going to hit the ball.

“I knew I was going to get a hit. I had a positive feeling. But it is very hard to know you have all of that pressure on you.”

Sophomore pitcher Bailey Beckwith drew a two-out walk in the ninth and was promptly replaced by courtesy runner Jessica Becker, a sophomore who hadn’t played in a softball game of any type since the third grade.

Becker was given a steal sign, but thought better of leaving the safety of first base.

“(I thought), I’ve got this (when they put me in the game),'” Becker said. “I saw the sign (to steal) and I thought, ‘Nope, not going to do it.’ I was nervous.”

Comp hit a looping liner just over the first baseman into the no-man’s land between the first and second baseman and the right fielder. The ball then rolled slightly toward the right-field line.

Becker, off at the crack of the bat, sped all the way around the bases, crossing home plate standing up – with ease – giving Jefferson (6-0, 1-0 in All-American Conference) the win against one of the teams considered to be a favorite for the league title as she was mobbed at home plate by her teammates.

“I just run,” Becker, just back from spring break, said. “That’s what I do. I wasn’t thinking. I just ran. As soon as I heard it, I was gone. That’s what I’m told to do. If I hear the crack, I go.

“I knew I needed to score. I knew where the ball was. I was trying to keep my eye on it.”

“Nobody else on the team scores on that play,” Jefferson coach Don McCormack said. “That’s why Jess is here. That’s why she’s playing softball.

“Her legs are an asset. I had to send her and she scored standing up. We try to use her in situations where she can help us and we can help her. That was the perfect situation. That was taylor-made for her. We might still be playing (if it’s not Becker running).”

It was a hard way to lose for Girard (4-2, 0-1).

“That’s one of those games nobody should lose,” Girard coach Renny Paolone said. “That was a great game – just a great game.

“After all of the fly balls (deep to right field), that’s the one (that ends it). That’s why baseball, softball, whatever you want to call it, is a great game. (Jefferson) deserves all the credit.”

Beckwith (2-0) overcame three unearned first-inning runs for the win. She allowed four runs – one earned – on seven hits. She fanned nine and walked a pair.

“(After falling behind early), you kind of have to try harder to place the ball in your spots,” she said. “When there’s contact, you have to trust your team will make the plays behind you.

“I’m just so thankful having this as my team. I know they’re they’re backing me up.”

The Falcons had knotted the score in the home half of the seventh, again with two outs.

Comp reached on a two-out error, bringing freshman Alyssa Irons to the plate. That was the moment, looking back, Paolone understand the momentum had shifted.

“That ground ball in the seventh was a killer,” Paolone said. “I could feel the air (leave us).”

With two strikes, Comp stole second and Irons delivered a liner to right-center, scoring Comp from second.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Irons said. “I was just trying to get a hit. I knew I had to hit it.

“I watched two strikes go by. I saw the third one coming and I just knew I had to swing the bat. It felt good to do what I knew I had to do.”

The Indians took advantage of three first-inning Jefferson miscues to take a 3-0 lead.

The Falcons started to chip at the lead in the bottom half of the inning. Sarah Busch walked, moved up on a passed ball and scored on a single by Irons.

After an infield single by Sam Hamski, Girard hurler Neco Maderitz then settled in to a nice groove, retiring the next nine Jefferson batters.

Girard went up, 4-1, Gabby Cario’s RBI-single in the top of the fifth for its only earned run of the game.

That seemed to awaken the Falcons a bit.

In the home half of the fifth, Busch tripled and scored on a groundout by Beckwith. McKenzie Wilber’s leadoff double and Kaycee Fusco’s RBI groundout had the Falcons within a run at 4-3 in to start the seventh.

After Jefferson had knotted the score in the seventh, a pair of defensive gems kept the Falcons in the contest.

In the eighth, catcher Ariann Barile charged back and dove to the backstop to catch a foul ball right at the fence for the second out of the inning.

“I’ve always said Ariann would run through a wall for the team,” McCormack said. “She proved it with that play today. That was so crucial. That’s just Ariann. She doesn’t know any other way.”

In the ninth, Irons charged hard and deep into the gap in right-center to run down a fly ball for the third out of the inning on a spectacular shin-high grab.

“We made two adjustments in the outfield,” McCormack said. “We moved Sarah (Busch) to right to take advantage of her very strong arm and to try and take away some hits with her ability to throw.

“To do that, you have to have a center fielder who can move. With Alyssa and McKenzie, we have that. I don’t know anybody else on the team who could have run that down besides Alyssa because of her stride.”

Maderitz (4-2) took the loss. She struck out 14 and walked three in allowing five runs four earned – on eight hits.