SENECA – After removing the tarp from the field early Saturday morning, Seneca veteran softball coach Dan Stecken and SHS athletic director Steve Haines decided that despite the frigid and windy conditions the playing surface was in good enough shape – with the help of some very dogged preparation – to support a few contests celebrating a very worthy cause.
The Lady Irish went out and honored the annual St. Jude's Hospital "Swinging For a Cure" tournament by capturing the championship of this year's three-team round robin event that afternoon here at Seneca High School with a couple of victories that also extended the Lady Irish winning streak to eight.
Seneca held off a late rally from Mendota to win the opener 5-4. Later, after Mendota topped Spring Valley Hall 6-3 in Game 2, the Lady Irish claimed the title with a 7-1 triumph over Hall to conclude the bone-chilling event in style.
Seneca 7, Hall 1
The Lady Irish (11-1) captured the crown with their incredible speed and tenacity on the base paths. Seneca's whopping 12 bases included a team-leading four from senior Hayley Wilson, who paced her club at the plate with three hits and a pair of runs batted in.
Seneca's young guns also proved stellar in the pitching circle as sophomore Grace Flatness (4-0) stayed perfect on the year by allowing just one run on two hits with no walks and eight strikeouts in five innings of work. Freshman hurler Maggie Carpenter (0 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 3 K) came on in relief to throw the final two frames in order to secure the three-hit championship victory.
"It's the best tool we have and it's hard not to utilize it when that's what we do so well," Stecken said. "We're aggressive and that's a philosophy that we preach. Some days we're successful, some days we're not. Today we were in some brutal conditions, but we're glad we could get the tournament in honoring a great cause."
Hall (3-9) could never get on track offensively against Flatness and Carpenter, but it's main demise came at the hands of Seneca's swift and stifling prowess on the bases.
"They had 10 stolen bases earlier in the week when they beat us at our place," said Hall coach Brian Holman. "They're realistically a top 10 team in the state in 2A. They took advantage of a bunch of our mental errors and they were a much better team than we were today. We did some good things but once again we saw the speed of the game and what a really good ballclub like Seneca can do to you."
Hall actually jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when sophomore Hanah Hart (2-for-3) led off with a double and scored after a groundout by Lauren Bulak.
But the Lady Irish answered with three tallies in the bottom of the frame against Hall's starting and losing pitcher Taytum Hahn (5 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 4 K) as they stole five bases, capped by Wilson's two-run single to right.
"I was really nervous because Coach Stecken doesn't let me hit all the time," Wilson said. "I just told myself that I had to get the runners in and prove to him why he was right to move me up in the batting order today."
Seneca added seven more steals from there, helping them to two runs in the fourth courtesy of an unearned run and a sacrifice fly from Carpenter, one marker in the fifth and a single tally in the sixth after an RBI groundout from Britney Helms that helped complete an amazing week in which the Lady Irish won seven straight games in a six-day span.
Seneca 5, Mendota 4
The Lady Irish led the Lady Trojans 4-0 after five innings of play, but Mendota fired off four tallies in the top of the sixth to tie things up before Seneca won it in the bottom of the frame in walk-off fashion.
Megan Neimann coaxed a bases-loaded walk to score Abriana Jashari with the game winner due to tournament time constraints.
Maggie Carpenter enjoyed a two-hit game along with a run-scoring hit while also earning the pitching win in relief.
Claudia Morris chipped in a double and two key RBIs during the triumphant effort.
Seneca 7, Hall 1
HALL (1) – Hart ss 3-1-2-0, Perkins 3b 3-0-0-0, Bulak 2b 3-0-1-1, Brokaw 1b 3-0-0-0, Hahn p 3-0-0-0, Herrmann dp 3-0-0-0, Loehr lf 2-0-0-0, Lanham rf 2-0-0-0, Parente cf 2-0-0-0, Bianchi c 0-0-0-0. Totals 24-1-3-1.
SENECA (7) – Bushman cf 2-0-0-0, Jashari cf 0-0-0-0, Helms lf/rf 4-1-1-1, Winsor 1b 3-2-1-0, Robinson ss 2-1-1-0, Draves c 2-0-0-0, Wilson 2b 3-1-3-2, Flatness p 3-0-0-0, M. Carpenter dp/p 1-0-0-1, Culbreth rf 1-1-1-0, Neimann 3b 1-0-0-0, Morris 3b/ss 2-1-1-0, Krull 1b 0-0-0-0, P. Carpenter lf 0-0-0-0. Totals 24-7-8-4.
Hall (3-9) 100 000 0 – 1 3 2
Seneca (11-1) 300 211 x – 7 8 1
LOB – Hall 2; Seneca 5. 2B – Hart, Morris. 3B – Hart. SB – Wilson 4, Helms 2, Robinson 2, Bushman, Jashari, Winsor, Culbreth. SAC – Draves. SF – M. Carpenter.
Hall ip r er h bb k
Hahn (L) 6.0 7 5 8 3 4
Flatness (W, 4-0) 5.0 1 1 2 0 8
M. Carpenter 2.0 0 0 1 0 3