One of the more intriguing parts of the National Pro Fastpitch league softball is the expectations of seeing something that doesn’t happen often.
For Madison Shipman, that moment came in the crucial moments of the sixth inning of Friday night’s game when she did the extraordinary for the USSSA Pride softball team. Shipman bunted in two runs – that’s right, bunted – and that helped send the Pride to a 5-2 win over the Rebellion in front of 1,090 fans at Consol Energy Park.
Shipman’s bunt turned a relatively close 3-1 game into a four-run bulge over the Rebellion, who have lost two in a row and fell to 2-4.
“My coach told me to lay down a bunt and I did,” said Shipman with a sheepish grin. “I went for a pitch that I shouldn’t have. I’ll guess I’ll be working on that.”
Shipman came to the plate with third baseman Andrea Duran on third base and left fielder Brigette Del Ponte on second. Del Ponte had just driven in a run to make it a 3-1 lead for the Pride with a single to left that scored first baseman GiOnna DiSalvatore.
Shipman squared against a 68 mph fastball by Rebellion starter Dallas Escobedo that was high in the strike zone. The Rebellion defense closed in, including Escobedo, who took a couple steps forward when Shipman made contact.
The softball caught the sweet part of the bat and shot into the air and over the head of a startled Escobedo. The ball fell near the second base bag and rolled to the outfield. Duran trotted home and Del Ponte raced around third as the Rebellion players scrambled to retrieve the ball.
“The play is designed to get the ball on the ground,” said Pride manager Gerry Glasco. “She didn’t get it on the ground, but she got the barrel of the bat on it.”
Escobedo, the No. 1 pick in the draft and making her third appearance of the season, got her glove slightly in the air but not close to the softball that sailed over her head.
“That’s not going to happen every game,” she said. “The ball has to start falling for us.”
Which has been a problem for the Rebellion, and not totally unexpected considering the young lineup. The Rebellion have scored just three runs in the last 14 innings, which won’t win many games. That’s a fact not lost on manager Rick Bertagnolli.
“We need to score runs,” he said. “That’s the biggest part of it for us.”
The Rebellion took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when catcher Taylor Edwards singled home Jenn Salling, who reached on a walk and moved to second on another walk. But the Rebellion would not get another hit until the fifth inning as Pride starter Chelsea Thomas would retire 13 of the next 15.
The Pride regained the lead in the second inning. Catcher Kristyn Sandberg opened the inning with a walk and came around to score on a strange play. Duran bunted her to second base but Sandberg tried for third and Courtney Liddle’s throw from first base went past third base for an error that allowed Sandberg to score. Escobedo then hit Del Ponte with a pitch and Shipman singled her to third base. The Pride pulled a double steal that got Del Ponte home.
The Rebellion did manage to push across a run in the seventh inning when rightfielder Brittney Lindley walked, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single to right by Salling.
“We’ve been getting hits at different times, but not at the right times,” said Bertagnolli. “It’s frustrating, but that’s the game.”