Tuesday, May 9, 2017

St. Peter-Marian Softball Shuts Out Shrewsbury

By John McGuirk (@patsfan1313)

WORCESTER - Three weeks ago, St. Peter-Marian stood at a crossroad. Coming off a shutout loss to Wachusett Regional, Guardians second-year coach Kristen Landers remained positive, but still managed to cast a few doubts concerning the overall potential of her club.

Since that day, much of that skepticism has vanished. Following Tuesday night’s 3-0 victory over Shrewsbury at Worcester State University’s Rockwell Field, the Guardians have been on a tear, having now won six of their last seven to improve to 9-4 on the season, and put them one win shy of earning a Central Mass. Division 1 postseason berth.

SPM got a strong outing from junior pitcher Jodi Opuda to go along with some timely hitting and solid defensive play. Opuda, a lefty, scattered three hits, keeping the majority of her pitches around the plate throughout the chilly evening.

“We had a smaller strike zone tonight but I think my catcher Jordan Carnes did a really good job setting up my spots,” said Opuda. “I was really hitting my spots tonight. The energy was up the whole time and I had the confidence in my teammates to make the plays behind me.”

Opuda cut through the Colonials lineup with relative ease, posting four strikeouts as she set Shrewsbury down in order in four of her seven innings of work. She also benefited from some well-played defense, especially that of second baseman Lauren Moran and sister Meg, playing third base. Both combined to make 12 putouts.

“We knew Shrewsbury had some good returning players and we knew it was going to be a battle,” Landers said. “Our girls came in super focused knowing this was not going to be an easy game. You work on the Xs and Os and all of the fundamentals, but we always say so much of this game is between the ears. It’s about not getting complacent when you are a little bit ahead and staying strong defensively. All of these girls pick each other up and trust one another which is so important.”

At the plate, SPM jumped on Shrewsbury pitcher Molly O’Neill for a pair of runs in the opening frame. Leadoff batter and Georgetown University commit Deirdre Gallo walked and Inez Herlihy reached on a bunt single. With Colonial third baseman Allison Tocman forced to come in to try and make a play on Herlihy’s bunt, the speedy Gallo never stopped running from first, sliding safely into third. A Meg Moran ground out plated Gallo with the first run.

After Carnes was struck by a pitch, Lauren Moran laid down another bunt single to load the bases. Mia Cariglia’s ground out brought Herlihy in with the Guardians’ second run.

One inning later, SPM was back at it. Chloe Beland opened with a walk and Gallo, who went 3 for 3 at the plate, lined a single to center. Herlihy’s SAC bunt would advance both runners into scoring position. Moments later, Meg Moran followed with another ground ball RBI before O’Neill (CG, 8 hits, 4 Ks), got Carnes to pop out to keep it a three run deficit.

For the remainder of this tilt, O’Neill, a junior, danced her way out of trouble as she kept the Guardians scoreless the rest of the way. For the game, SPM stranded nine runners, including five over the final four frames.

“Opuda is a very good pitcher who has a lot of tools,” said Shrewsbury first-year coach Jamie Millet. “She threw well and limited us to only three hits, so hats off to her. St. Peter-Marian also had some quality at bats tonight. Last week we played four games in a row, but today I thought we picked up our energy. We were lagging a little bit at the tail end of last week so if we can play with the kind of energy we showed tonight then we are going to be fine moving forward.”

With O’Neill finally solving the Guardians offense, on the other side, Opuda continued to dominate. She rolled through the Colonials’ powerful offense with relative ease. Only once the entire game did Shrewsbury (8-5) land a runner beyond first base. That came in the seventh on a two-out double off the bat of Samantha Hallice. But Opuda shrugged the two-bagger off by getting O’Neill to fly out to end the game.

“Having confidence in my team in the fact that they are going to score and make a cushion for me always brings my own confidence level up,” Opuda said. “I don’t tend to ever get comfortable out there. I always want pitch my best but it definitely makes things a little easier in terms of what my teammates can do.”

Charity Game

All proceeds from last night's game will be designated for the Breast Intentions Massachusetts Chapter, which assists local women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. This marks the third time in as many years that St. Peter-Marian has staged a game for this charity.

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