Maybe it was the television cameras spread throughout Consol Energy Park, sending this softball game into potentially 96 million homes.
Maybe it was Sarah Pauly getting another crack at a team that traded her away in the offseason.
Maybe it was just the odds were finally on their side.
Whatever it was, the Pennsylvania Rebellion put together perhaps their best game of the season, getting an outstanding pitching performance by Pauly, some great defensive plays from center fielder Sami Garcia and right fielder Mandy Ogle to throw runners out at the plate, and clutch hitting.
The result was a 1-0 victory over the USSSA Pride in front of 1,210 fans Monday in a game broadcast by CBS Sports Network.
It was the first broadcast of a one-season, 17-game package between the National Pro Fastpitch league and CBS Sports Network. The second is tonight and features a pitching matchup of Dallas Escobedo for the Rebellion (5-16) against Cat Osterman of the Pride (16-7) in the final game of this four-game series. The Pride won the first two games by a combined 18-1 score.
“This was a huge win,” said second baseman Sarah Prezioso. “I think everyone just took a deep breath and said, ‘We can do this.’”
Prezioso provided the key hit, a double with pinch-runner Angeline Quiocho on third base and Taylor Edwards on first, that produced the only run of the game. Prezioso looped a pitch from Pride starter Keilani Ricketts (1-2) down the right-field line that landed just fair.
“Most of the balls I hit that way tend to tail off,” Prezioso said. “It always has back spin.”
Pauly, who was traded to the Rebellion by the Pride before the season started, was magnificent. She pitched a complete game, giving up five hits, striking out two and walking one. She raised her record to 4-5.
“When she pitches against them,” Prezioso said, “it feels like she has this little bit of revenge deep down inside her.”
Interestingly, it was the second win for Pauly over the Pride and the third by the Rebellion over the NPF defending champion.
“Obviously, I used to play for them and I never thought I would be on the other side, throwing to their hitters,” she said. “It’s a little extra pressure but a little more focus on my end. The Pride is the strongest hitting team in the league, so one mistake can be the difference between winning and losing.”
That’s why the defensive plays by Garcia and Ogle were so important.
In the second inning, catcher Kristyn Sandberg was hit by a pitch with two out. She tried to score on a single to right by Andrea Doran. But Ogle’s throw home beat Sandberg by about six feet and catcher Taylor Edwards made the tag, despite Sandberg nearly twisting out of the way.
“The ball got there a long time before I did,” said Sandberg. “(The umpire) must have thought she tagged my shirt. I was pretty much a sitting duck.”
Garcia’s gem came in the third with designated hitter Brigette Del Ponte on third and Courtney Ceo on second with one out. Center fielder Caitlin Lowe lifted a fly to right field that Garcia caught. Del Ponte headed for home and Garcia made a perfect throw to get her for the third out.
“Those plays stopped two runs,” said Rebellion manager Stacey Rice. “That easily could have won the game for them.”
The Rebellion left seven runners on base, including the bases loaded in the fourth inning after taking a 1-0 lead.
“We had a lot of scoring opportunities,” Rice said. “We’re not capitalizing on them. But it seemed this was the first time the ball bounced the right way for us. The game was on TV. It probably helped motivate us and kept us focused. When you know so many people are watching, you tend to be more focused.”