By Tom Williams
If the new Diocese of Youngstown League selects a softball MVP this spring, Ursuline junior shortstop Macey Gunther is a strong candidate.
In Tuesday’s six-inning 11-1 victory over archrival Cardinal Mooney, Gunther went 4-for-4 at the plate and drove in four runs.
“Macey is a special kid,” Ursuline coach Mike Kernan said. “She’s so focused that I’m not sure that there is anybody who is going to out-work her.
“Her work ethic and approach to the game [are superb],” Kernan said. “She’s growing into a phenomenal ballplayer.”
Gunther’s big hit came in the fifth inning, a two-run homer over the center-field fence at Liberty Township Park. She also had a double in the first inning and RBI singles in the third and sixth innings.
After her third-inning hit, a three-base error in the outfield allowed Gunther to race home behind McKenzie Stimpert for a 2-0 lead for the Irish (5-0, 2-0).
“It felt pretty good,” Gunther said of her big day at the plate. “My confidence was really there [after] I said a little prayer.”
Gunther said she struggled with strikeouts in her last game. Starting off with a double “definitely helps,” Gunther said. “It definitely boosts your confidence.”
Sophomore Makayla Shore improved to 4-0, allowing three hits, striking out seven and walking one. Mooney’s run was unearned.
Shore admitted she was “a little nervous” pitching against the Cardinals (1-3, 0-1).
“They are our main rival and we wanted to do our best for our school,” Shore said. “It’s always a big [game].”
Gunther’s bat was appreciated on the mound. “Macey’s so good for our team, not only a great infielder and batter but she’s a leader,” Shore said. “She really pumps us up, encourages us.”
For Mooney, seniors Angela Penza had two hits and Marche Venable one.
Both teams have plenty of changes in this spring’s lineup. Of Mooney’s 10 starters Tuesday, one was a sophomore (outfielder Brittany Hendricks) and three were freshmen (shortstop Jami DiFabio, third baseman Sydney Kocher and outfielder Damani Santiago).
Ursuline junior McKenzie Stimpert, who pitched in 2012, is behind the plate. Gunther is back in the infield after patrolling the outfield last season.
“I kind of play all over,” Gunther said. “I like shortstop, but wherever my team needs me to play, that’s where I like to play.”
Kernan said the five-game winning streak is a bit of a bonus. “We [started] with six people all at new positions,” Kernan said. “People said it looks like you have an experienced roster and I said, ‘We’re young, inexperienced and have a lot of maturing to do.’
“We have the potential to be a good team.”
In the summer, Gunther plays travel ball with a team based in Cincinnati. In the winter, she plays basketball.
She prefers her summer sport.
“Definitely, I love softball,” Gunther said.
Gunther’s homer was followed by a solo shot by Shore, giving Ursuline a 6-1 lead.
An inning later, Shore and Dana Creatore doubled during Ursuline’s five-run rally that ended the game.