Rally in next-to-last AB helps Sullivan top Neumann

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette St. John Neumann’s Cheyenne Decker slides under the tag of Sullivan County third baseman Jaeden Patson in the first inning of their game Thursday at Elm Park.

It was far from a crushing, deep hit that would wow fans. Sullivan County’s Quincy Fry probably wasn’t too concerned, though, since it was enough of a hit to do what she needed to do.

With a 2-0 count, Fry drove the next pitch and the ball took a hard hop before hitting the left-center field grass. It was hard enough of a hit to enable Savannah Baldwin and Kassandra Houseknecht to both cross home plate.

Those two runs added onto the two Sullivan County had already scored to start the top of the sixth and gave the Griffins a three-run lead which held up, giving Sullivan County a 9-6 win over St. John Neumann on Thursday afternoon at Elm Park.

“We tied it in I think it was (the fourth) at 4-4 at that point and they get one run in next inning and at that point, we knew we had to pull it together and start getting more hits and make something happen,” Sullivan County coach Brian Heisman said. “That was one that we were able to really pull it together and once we got into a rhythm, things were happening.”

The Golden Knights (2-2) held a 5-4 lead going into the sixth inning before Sullivan (2-0) responded with its four-run sixth inning, helped in large part by three fielder’s choice plays and two errors.

For the first few innings, it was a back-and-forth affair between the two teams. After Sullivan took the early 1-0 lead in the first inning with an RBI single by Madison Burke which drove in Jaeden Patson, Neumann responded with two runs in the bottom of the first to take its first lead of the game.

Both teams took one more lead before Sullivan reclaimed it for good in the sixth.

One thing that proved costly for the Golden Knights was errors, as Neumann committed five.

“Something our team needs to focus on is errors. That’s definitely hurting us these last few games, but we’re getting more practices in, more reps, we’re getting those young players used to play at this level,” St. John Neumann assistant Jenn Adams said.

In all but one inning, St. John Neumann stranded at least two runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded in the second and fourth innings. But those timely hits just never seemed to come for the Golden Knights, who were 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position.

Burke and Sullivan’s defense helped prevent the Golden Knights from rallying in those situations and sparking any momentum. Burke scattered just five hits — all singles — and struck out nine.

“During practice we do a lot of pressure plays and that’s definitely one of the pressure plays that we have runners on and they keep their calm, they keep their cool and they’re able to pull it out of the fire and make something happen,” Heisman said.

Sullivan County had 11 hits, all of which were singles. Kassandra Houseknecht went 3 for 4 with two runs scored and both Leona Hatch and Jaeden Patson had two hits each. Sullivan also had at least one hit in all but one inning.

“Once we moved some of the girls up in the box a little bit, they were able to make a connection and make some plays happen,” Heisman said. “If it wasn’t for them making that adjustment themselves and being strong on defense and keeping each other’s backs, I think game might have been a little bit different than way it turned out to be.”

Anne Weller had four appearances on base for the Golden Knights as she was walked three times and had a single. Neumann’s five singles came from five players: Weller, Helminiak (two RBIs), Kriner (two runs scored), Cheyenne Decker and Kaylin Brown. Zuzu Shanaway also reached base three times with walks and scored a run.

After trailing 1-0 in the first, St. John Neumann’s Jenny Mertes and Shanaway scored runs thanks to a walk and a wild pitch to take its first lead, 2-1. But the lead was a brief-lived as the Griffins responded right away in the top of the third by scoring two more off a Malacusky single.

Neumann tied it in the bottom of the fourth at 4-4 and then scored a run in the fifth when Julianna Kriner reached thanks to a dropped third strike. She ended up scoring on a wild pitch. The Golden Knights cut the deficit to 8-6 after the sixth inning with an RBI single by Kriner to score Breanna Minnier, but Neumann wasn’t be able to get it any closer in the seventh, as it stranded runners at first and second.

The Griffins added another run when Alexis Randall scored after reaching on a single into shallow left to give Sullivan a three-run lead again in the seventh.

The win is just the second of the year for Sullivan County, which beat Montgomery to start the season. But Heisman is happy with how the team has performed so far and is hoping the early season success carries on throughout the year.

“I’m real proud of where we are right now. We’re proud of the girls and their dedication. We’re starting a little slow, this is only our second game, so we expect big things for them,” Heisman said. “So I think the potential is there to move on to playoffs, which is something that Sullivan hasn’t done in quite a few years.”

SC 102 104 1 — 9 11 1

SJN 020 211 0 — 6 5 5

Madison Burke and Kassandra Houseknecht. Anne Weller and Cheyenne Decker. W–Burke. L–Weller.

Top Sullivan County hitters: Kassandra Houseknecht 3-4, 2 runs; Jaeden Patson 2-4, 2 runs; Leona Hatch 2-4, 2 runs; Quincy Fry, 1B, 2 RBIs; Madison Burke, 1B, RBI, 2 SBs; Mykenzie Malacusky, 1B; Alexis Randall, 1B, 2 runs. Top St. John Neumann hitters: Cheyenne Decker, 1B, 2 BB; Kaylin Brown, 1B, run; Anne Weller, 1B, 3 BBs; Maria Helminiak, 1B, 2 RBIs; Zuzu Shanaway, 3 BBs, run; Julianna Kriner, 1B, RBI, 2 runs.

Records: Sullivan County (2-0), St. John Neumann (2-2).