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MINGO JUNCTION — Natalia Dunburg provided the spark.
Dunburg came on in relief in the bottom of the fourth inning, and she launched a solo home run leading off the sixth igniting a rally as the Catholic Central softball team scored the final six runs of the game en route to a 9-6 victory against Madonna Friday evening on Mike Melko Field.
The Crusaders entered the sixth down 6-3 before Dunburg got things started with her home run to left. Catholic Central went on to score three more runs in the inning before adding a pair of insurance runs in the seventh to secure their second win against the Blue Dons this season.
“She came in and did a great job,” Catholic Central (4-2) head coach Rick Gillette said. “She shut them down. Then, that home run got us going. That is a big victory for us.
“We have played two games in two weeks. We needed this big time, big time. We’re the Crusaders. We don’t quit. They didn’t quit. We told them to keep fighting, and they did. That home run set us up.”
It was a self-inflicted loss for Madonna as the Blue Dons committed nine errors in the game, including multiple errors in all three innings in which the Crusaders scored.
“That was a tough one,” first-year Madonna (5-5) head coach Jason Backel said. “We made errors at the most inopportune times like when they had runners on second and third. We made some nice plays, but we made mistakes in inopportune times. She made a couple nice plays at third, but there were errant throws. Those things killed us. We are starting seven freshmen and sophomores. The first time we played them they beat us by 10. Today, we had them on the ropes. We had them beat. We just let them off the hook. It’s disappointing. We battled. We just made some mental mistakes.
“We are a young team. We’re learning. We’re going to get better.”
Along with the nine errors, the Blue Dons were also unable to come up with clutch hits in key situations.
Trailing 7-6 in the home half of the sixth, Ally Laughlin doubled to lead off the inning, however, Madonna was unable to push a run across keeping the Crusaders in the lead.
Earlier, Laughlin led off the third with a triple, and she was left stranded following a walk, a pop-up, a strikeout and a 9-3 groundout.
“We left a lot of runners on base,” Backel said. “I think we left 10 or 11 runners on base. We just could not get a hit when we needed it. We had girls on second and third and didn’t score.
“My daughter ripped that ball hard, and that girl made the play. She ended up doubling us up at first. That was a game changer. If that ball goes down the line, two runs score and we are off to the races. That girl made a heck of a play. I think it was their pitcher who moved to third.”
Dunburg picked up the win for Central in relief of starter Jayda Jones. Dunburg struck out three and walked three in her 3 2/3 innings of work inside the circle. Jones struck out four and walked five in her 3 1/3 innings of work.
Madison Cross took the loss for the Dons. Cross struck out four and walked two.
Madonna outhit Catholic Central, 9-6, but the Blue Dons could not overcome their errors.
Dunburg’s home run was the lone extra-base hit the victors tallied on the day. The senior ended up with two RBI on the day.
Also, Anna Aria added two singles and two RBI, Kylie Roe recorded an RBI single while Talia Marcino and Gina Crust each collected a base hit. Finally, Bella Zinno tallied an RBI.
Laughlin collected two of Madonna’s three extra-base hits.
Chloe Orrechio recorded an RBI double, Cross contributed two singles and three RBI and GiGi Orrechio chipped in with a pair of base hits to help Madonna’s cause. Also, Carmela Pulice and Grace Parker each produced a base hit.
Three Madonna errors contributed three Catholic Central runs in the first. Zinno and Dunburg plated runs with groundouts in the inning as the visiting team took an early 3-0 lead.
The tables turned in the home half of the inning as the Crusaders made a pair of errors as the Blue Dons scored two runs to pull within 3-2 after one inning. Cross singled home a run in the inning.
Neither team scored in the next two innings, and Catholic Central kept the lead until the bottom of the fourth. Madonna delivered four runs in the inning to take the lead at 6-3. Catcher Chloe Orrechio brought home a run with a double, Cross singled home a pair while the other run was scored on a fielder’s choice.
A scoreless fifth inning left Catholic Central six outs away from defeat, however, the Crusaders did not let that happen.
Once again, errors proved costly for Madonna as Catholic Central scored four runs on three hits. Dunburg’s home run was the catalyst for the inning.
Dunburg’s blast cut Catholic Central’s deficit to 6-4. Next, Gianna Scugoza ended up on third following a three-base error on a dropped flyball in the outfield. Aria followed with her first single of the game scoring Scugoza pulling the Crusaders to within a run at 6-5. After a strikeout, Marcino singled to put two runners on base. Cross got a groundout for the second out of the inning, however, the tying and go-ahead runs scored on a throwing error on a ball hit by Jones enabling the girls in the white jerseys to regain the lead at 7-6.
Aria and Roe recorded back-to-back RBI singles in the seventh to extend Catholic Central’s advantage to 9-6.
“It was a big victory for us,” Gillette said. “We are going to take it one game at a time. We play two games tomorrow. If we win two in a row tomorrow against Lisbon, we have a chance to make it to the OVAC Tournament.
“We have been dying to play. We just haven’t been able to play. We bounced back today. We had some big hits. We made some great defensive plays. (Kiera) Goffoli made that diving play.
“We never quit. I am proud of the girls.”
Madonna had two runners on base with one out in the seventh, but the Blue Dons were once again unable to come through with runners on base. Dunburg got of the inning unharmed thanks to back-to-back groundouts.
Catholic Central’s Julia Lopresto wiped one run off the board in the third when she threw a Maura Ruiz out at first from right field to end the inning. Laughlin had already crossed the plate, and Cross was right behind her when Lopresto threw out Madonna’s right fielder to end the threat and the inning.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at Starvaggi Park, however, the field was unplayable and the search was on for a field capable of hosting a game.
“I want to thank Tim Allen,” Backel said. “He worked on the field and that enabled us to get this game in. We have had eight or nine games canceled. We have played 10 games, and we have had that many canceled. Our field is unplayable at least until tomorrow. We are supposed to have a home game Tuesday against Magnolia. It is our Senior Night.
“We have two seniors. we have one junior, and the rest of the girls are freshmen and sophomores. We are a young team, but we are getting better.
“We still have work to do. I am happy with the way we are battling. We just still have work to do. We’re young. We made a couple of mistakes today and that was the difference in the game.”
Catholic Central 9, Madonna 6
Catholic Central 3-0-0 0-0-4 2 – 9 6 3
Madonna 2-0-0 4-0-0 0 – 6 9 9
CATHOLIC CENTRAL (4-2): Jones ND (3 1/3IP, 4K, 5BB), Dunburg WP (3 2/3IP, 3K, 3BB) and Marcino. Zinno RBI; Dunburg HR, 2RBI; Arai 2S, 2RBI; Roe S, RBI; Marcino S; Crust S.
MADONNA (5-5): Cross LP (4K, 2BB) and C. Orecchio. C. Orrechio D, RBI; Pulice S; Laughlin D, T; Cross 2S, 3RBI; Parker S; G. Orrechio 2S.