(Cover photo credit: Sam Draut)
It has been a season of up and downs for seventh-ranked Male softball, but a team that head coach Josh Bloomer described as “gritty” pulled out a tough win to over sixth-ranked Ballard to advance to the Seventh Region Championship game for the fourth consecutive year.
Male scored two runs in the top of the first inning and rode the right-arm of Olivia Suski, who delivered a second consecutive dominant performance in regional play to defeat Ballard 3-2 at the University of Louisville’s Ulmer Stadium.
Suski pitched her second straight complete game, allowing five hits and two unearned runs while striking out five hitters. The junior pitched a complete game three-hit shutout on Monday against Presentation.
“We feel like we have the best pitcher in the city,” Bloomer said. “She was good. We worked away tonight. When she needed to, she controlled her rise.”
After Ballard’s leadoff hitter Allie Skaggs reached base in the first inning, Suski retired 10 straight hitters.
“My spins were working,” said Suski. “I have faced them before and I was trying to keep them off balance.”
Suski walked into the circle in the bottom of the first inning with a two-run lead. In the top half of the first inning, Dani Walls hit a double off the fence to score Morgan Zuege, and then Suski drove in Walls with a bloop single to give Male a 2-0 lead.
The first inning runs helped to ease Suski into facing a pesky Ballard lineup.
“It made me feel a lot more comfortable on the mound,” added Suski. “I could pitch my game.”
Male tacked on a third run in the top of the fifth inning when Walls drew a bases-loaded walk.
“I feel like if we get three (runs) with Suski, we are going to be okay,” Bloomer said.
In the sixth inning, Ballard again had runners reach first and second base. Then, the Bruins were able to score on an error by Male shortstop Jenna Howell. With a runner on third and one out, Male first baseman Alyssa Case caught a popup in foul territory and threw home to Walls as Ballard made a move toward home. Walls fired to third and Masterson tagged out the runner for the final out of the sixth inning.
Suski retired Ballard in order in the seventh inning to end the game. Ballard coach Alan Jones said Suski pitched well.
“We just didn’t come out attacking in the beginning,” Jones said. “We had chances in the fifth and sixth.”
Jones decided to start pitcher Sarah Brill instead of University of Illinois signee Akilah Mouzon, who threw a complete game in the 29th District championship against Eastern last week. After the game, Jones said Mouzon was suffering from elbow problems and he didn’t want to risk her future career.
Male will face Eastern in the championship tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. Bloomer said the win over Ballard “doesn’t mean anything” if his team can’t pull out a win against Eastern.
“The stage doesn’t overwhelm us,” Bloomer said. ““We have a gritty gritty team that competes.”