On the surface, it was a frustrating extra innings loss to a division rival. But Mary Louis’ 4-2 defeat in nine innings to perennial CHSAA powerhouse St. Francis Prep Tuesday meant so much more.
The Hilltoppers rallied from a two-run deficit and had the Terriers on the ropes in the bottom of the seventh before being done in by a pair of base-running blunders. To coach Ginny Peiser, the league-opening loss was more optimistic than disappointing.
“It’s very encouraging,” Peiser said. “When they were younger, they would have folded and we never would have gotten to that tie game. We had many opportunities to win the game. We cut down on a few mental mistakes, the game is ours.”
In the past, Mary Louis struggled against the league’s elite like St. Francis Prep and Archbishop Molloy. But on Tuesday, the Hilltoppers didn’t back down from the Terriers.
That, Peiser believes, is a sign of her team’s maturity this year.
“This is a senior-laden team and they’re very confident,” she said. “They will bounce back from today and learn from it and I think moving forward we’re going to be a team to be reckoned with.”
A big reason for that is sophomore ace Nicole Huber, who brings an improved changeup, a drop, fastball and a screwball to the circle this year.
“I’m a lot more confident this year in every area,” she said. “I’m a lot more comfortable with everyone. Last year as a freshman on varsity, it was kind of intimidating, but this year I’m very confident.”
Huber isn’t just confident, she’s more consistent in the circle, as well.
“Her movement on her pitches is a lot better, she’s walking less batters,” Peiser said. “This year, when she gets in trouble, she gets out of it, which she didn’t do in the past. I’m real proud of her [in the circle].”
Huber has good reason to be confident. There’s a veteran infield behind her and, according to Peiser, an outfield with more speed and stronger arms than before.
Senior Shannon Minihane, a solid line drive hitter, is at third, senior Julie Canova is at first, senior Alyssa Paolicelli is at second and senior Stephanie Barbaro is behind the plate. Juniors Brittany Nicoll and Louisa Conway will split time at short.
“We have a really solid infield with a lot of experience,” Peiser said.
In the outfield, senior Deirdre Munday, who made an outstanding snow cone catch and fired a strike home for a double play against St. Francis Prep, will patrol center field, while junior Sam Rossi is in left and junior Kim Myers, who also played basketball in the winter, will be in right.
Speedy and strong-armed sophomore Gabby Malave will also see plenty of time.
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