rn St. Paul beats La Salle in “mercy rule” rout for second time this season
For defending CIF champions, the St. Paul Lady Swordsmen softball team, the major challenge this season hasn’t been playing well enough to take the lead, but rather, playing well enough to keep it. “Our biggest thing has been keeping the intensity the whole game,” admits St. Paul manager Natalie Sharp. “When we’re not intense, we get flat, so we do what we can to keep our girls up.”
Maintaining intensity certainly was in order Tuesday afternoon, as the Lady Swordsmen hosted the La Salle Lady Lancers. With the bitter aftertaste of its April 1 10-0 mercy rule loss at the hands of St. Paul still in its mouth, La Salle came into York Park in Whittier with revenge on the agenda and energy to spare. And after taking an early deficit, La Salle punched back to tie things up and ensure that round two of this matchup wouldn’t be a repeat of the round one. “We kind of go back and forth with teams, and we don’t want to do that,” says Sharp.
To Sharp’s delight, the early tie would be the last “back,” as her St. Paul squad surged forth with a 12-2 onslaught that earned the Lady Swordsmen their second mercy rule victory in as many tries against the Lady Lancers, this time by a score of 15-5.
rnSt. Paul strikes first
Intensity certainly wasn’t a problem for the Lady Swordsmen early in the game. Looking to establish itself as the aggressor right out of the gate, St. Paul rattled La Salle junior starting pitcher Paula Damas in the top of the first inning and amassed three hits, highlighted by a three-run jack by first baseman Taylor Fogle. “I had runners on second and third, so I was thinking, ‘I need to come through right here. We need to score now. We can’t wait ... stay on top of the ball,’” recalls Fogle of the at-bat. “I was fouling off everything, waiting for my pitch, and [Damas] threw me that pitch. And I just took it for a hit.”
rnLady Lancers rally
Determined not to suffer the same fate as in its previous matchup with St. Paul, La Salle generated a comeback response in the top of the third inning. With two runners aboard, sophomore standout shortstop and UCLA commit Kinsley Washington smacked a two-run triple to the right field gap. In the following inning, freshman utility player Savannah Nelson drilled a double to bring in the tying run and swing the momentum firmly back in La Salle’s favor.
“I told the girls it’s a brand new game; brand new battle,” says Sharp. “We gotta score to win, so there’s no sitting back. Just keep putting on runners and getting girls through.”
“Our philosophy was to not let anything go past the infield,” adds Fogle. “Dive for everything. Outfield, don’t let anything drop. If the ball is on the floor, get it in quick. Don’t let them score. Just keep everything in the infield.”
rnPiling it on
Fogle’s strategies are usually much easier said than done, especially against a talented team like La Salle. But from the fourth inning on, St. Paul sure made it look easy.
Starting pitcher Gabby Walker quickly shook off the La Salle rally and found herself in a groove, befuddling the Lady Lancer batters with a potent combination of fastballs and off-speed pitches en route to a complete game. “[Walker] did a great job with those change-ups, getting everyone,” says Fogle of Walker’s workhorse performance. “It was just great pitching.”
Backed by outstanding and error-free defense, Walker only allowed two La Salle baserunners to cross the plate for the remainder of the game. And just as Walker was settling down, the entire St. Paul roster was ramping up the intensity on offense. The Lady Swordsmen batted all away around the lineup in both the fourth and fifth innings, compiling six and three runs respectively. At the rate St. Paul was going, it might have made its way through the batting order again in the sixth inning, but the game was called due to the mercy rule once the Lady Swordsmen attained a double digit edge.
Fogle came through in the clutch yet again in the fourth inning, smacking a bases-loaded triple to give her six RBI and four trips to the basepaths in four appearances. St. Paul also received a major boost from catcher Niko Walker, who had three hits, including two triples, the latter of which ended the game in the sixth inning.
Meanwhile, for La Salle, the wheels simply came loose. Its offense failed to capitalize on several of the opportunities it generated, and its defense committed four errors in the final two frames, which doesn’t include miscues on two pop flies that were lost in the sun. But according to Fogle, St. Paul’s success on Tuesday wasn’t so much about the Lady Lancers falling apart as it was about the Lady Swordsmen coming together.
“What I saw overall was we came together, and we didn’t let the score of the game keep us down,” says Fogle. “Our motto was stay positive and play heads up softball. Nothing kept us down.”
rnUp Next: St. Joseph’s
St. Paul will have some time to enjoy Tuesday’s victory, as it doesn’t play again until May 5th, when it hosts St. Joseph, a team St. Paul defeated recently on April 16th by a score of 9-4. The Lady Swordsmen hope to improve upon their record in league play, which improved Tuesday to 6-1.