CALIFORNIA – There was plenty of offense in Trinity’s WPIAL Class AAA softball playoff game Thursday against Brownsville. The teams combined for 16 runs and 25 hits in only six innings. There was no shortage of baserunners.
However, it was two defensive plays in the fifth inning – one Trinity successfully executed and one Brownsville did not – that helped turn a close game into a 13-3 rout for the Hillers in a first-round contest at California University’s Lilley Field.
After Trinity (12-4) built a 5-1 lead through four innings, Brownsville mounted a comeback in the top of the fifth. The Falcons scored two runs to pull to within 5-3, but it could have been an even bigger inning for Brownsville had it not been for a heady play by Trinity third baseman Shelby Clemens.
Brownsville (9-11), which was in the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, had runners on the corners with no outs when Christina Davidson, the No. 9 hitter in the Falcons’ lineup, put down a bunt that hugged the third-base line and was fielded by Clemens, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement only three batters earlier.
Instead of trying to make a tough play to first base, Clemens faked the throw. Brownsville’s Brandi Fisher, who was on third base and had followed Clemens down the line, broke hard for home when she saw Clemens wind up to throw. When Clemens faked the toss, Fisher was an easy out as she ran into the tag.
“That was a good play,” Trinity coach Mike Marino said. “At that time, I was thinking about three hitters ahead and trying to determine if I needed to go out talk to my pitcher. Next thing I know, (Clemens), who had been in the game for a half an inning, makes a fake throw for an out. A lot of teams use that play, but it’s usually called from the bench.”
Not this time.
“She faked me out,” Trinity catcher Delaney Elling said. “That was a smart play. I thought she was throwing to first base.”
Two of the next three Brownsville hitters produced singles, which cut Trinity’s lead to 5-3, but the Falcons could have used the extra out and run.
Trinity’s Ashley Winkelvoss, who scored three runs, was hit by a pitch from Brownsville’s Miranda Arison to start the bottom of the fifth. Then, the Falcons failed to make a defensive play that jump-started Trinity’s offense. Brianna Thomas hit a bouncer back to Arison, who turned to throw to second base, but there was confusion about who was supposed to cover the bag. Arison threw the ball behind her shortstop and it sailed into center field as Winkelvoss ended up at third base and Thomas at second.
“At this time of year, you win with defense. You can’t give runs away,” Marino said.
And that’s exactly what Brownsville did. The throwing error seemed to rattle the Falcons as they committed three more over the next two innings and Trinity scored seven runs.
And the last thing Brownsville needed to do was give Trinity extra chances because the Hillers’ hitters were doing just fine on their own. Elling, who is only a freshman, went 5-for-5 with three doubles and four RBI. Olivia Gray was 3-for-4 with a double and three runs.
Nine different Trinity players had at least one hit, but it was Elling who did the most damage. She had run-scoring doubles in the second and fifth innings, and smacked a two-run double to end the game in the sixth.
Freshmen aren’t supposed to have playoff debuts like Elling’s. So what was the key to her success?
“A new bat,” she said. “The statistics show that I was hitting well, but I haven’t been happy. I’m a perfectionist. I had to try something different.”
Trinity will try to keep its offense going when it plays West Mifflin in a quarterfinal game, which is likely to be played Monday.
“Once we settled down, got the nervousness out of the way, we got going offensively,” Marino said.
Tiffany Clark was the winning pitcher, giving up eight hits but only two over the first four innings.