The weather cooperated with a breezy, sunny day. The crowd was large and enthusiastic. The opponent was the defending league champions.
Everything was in place Thursday for the Pennsylvania Rebellion’s first home game at Consol Energy Park in their short history with the National Pro Fastpitch softball league.
What could ruin a night like this?
Well, a poor start could, which is exactly what happened to the Rebellion.
They staggered at the beginning and allowed excellent chances to score runs to slip away on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Pride in front of 2,943 fans.
“We wanted to win the home opener. Who doesn’t?” said Rebellion manager Rick Bertagnolli.
The loss was the second in a row for the Rebellion against the Pride and dropped their record to 2-3 on the season. The Pride moved to 3-2.
The game turned almost before most fans could find their seats. The Pride scored three runs in the first inning, two of them coming on a passed ball with two runners on base, effectively taking the crowd out of the game and putting the Rebellion in a hole they could not dig out of over the next six innings.
“Nope, (that’s not the way we wanted to start), not at all,” said Rebellion starter Sarah Pauly, who allowed all six runs and 10 hits. “Our energy level seemed down. I felt that. I didn’t feel comfortable until the 1-2-3 (third) inning.”
By then, the Pride held a 5-2 lead.
The disastrous first inning began when speedy leftfielder Sharonda McDonald got on with a bunt base hit and centerfielder Caitlin Lowe beat out an infield single. Pauly got first baseman GiOnna DiSalvatore to pop out but designated hitter Kristyn Sandberg walked to load the bases.
That’s where the inexperience of the Rebellion players showed. Pauly and catcher Mandy Ogle had a miscommunication on a pitch location and the offering to shortstop Madison Shipman riccocheted off Ogle’s glove for a passed ball that allowed McDonald and Lowe to score.
“It was a little mix-up,” Lowe said. “My job is to block that pitch.”
In fairness, Ogle has not had a chance to practive with the team, joining the Rebellion right before the first game of the season.
“They were together for the first time,” said Bertagnolli. “We’ll learn from that. It happens.”
Pauly got Shipman to pop out but rightfielder Kelly Kretschman followed with a double to left-center field that scored Sandberg to make it 3-0.
Things appeared to go from bad to worse in the second, when Pauly injured her left ankle while delivering a pitch. She was attended to by the trainers and walked to the dugout. But she returned, after having her ankle taped, and continued.
The Pride responded with two more runs after two were out. McDonald bunted her way on and stole second base. Lowe followed with a single to drive her in and DiSalvatore doubled Lowe home. McDonald, Lowe and DiSalvatore went a combined 7-for-12 with four tuns scored and an RBI.
The Rebellion played well after that, holding the Pride to just a solo home run by Kristyn Sandberg in the fifth. They even closed the gap to 5-2 in the bottom of the second when they took advantage of two errors by the Pride.
Rightfielder Brittney Lindley got on when second baseman Brigette Del Ponte botched a grounder and Lauren Lappin made it to second one out later on a bad throw by third baseman Andrea Duran on another grounder. Ogle drove them both in on a single to center field.
The Rebellion put runners in scoring position in the fourth and sixth innings but Pride pitcher Olivia Galati got out of it both times.
“We made a couple mistakes,” said Bertagnolli. “We had our opportunities, but we just didn’t cash in.”
Pitcher Dallas Escobedo, the top pick in the NPF draft, will start for the Rebellion tonight.