It had all the makings of a Holy War game minus the gridiron and shoulder pads. But the attitude of the teams was the same as you’d expect from a Cardinal Mooney-Ursuline game.
“It was tooth-and-nail, a big stage, beautiful stadium and a big crowd,” Mooney head coach Mark Rinehart said. “I was expecting an absolute dogfight and that’s what it was.”
Gia DiFabio’s single with two outs brought home two runs in the top of the ninth inning to beat their archrival 9-7 at the Youngstown State Softball Complex.
Ursuline jumped out to a 3-0 lead after an inning but a multitude of errors on both sides kept the scoreboard operator busy as it stood 6-6 after three innings.
“The nature of the way the dogfight played out was unexpected,” Rinehart said. “All the mistakes on both sides I think were mostly big-game jitters from young players on both sides.”
Despite the number of runs and errors, both pitchers settled down and went all the way to the ninth inning. Mooney’s Kayla Rutherford went all nine innings while Ursuline’s Jordyn Kenneally went 82/3 innings before giving way to Emma Ericson to finish the game.
“The first three innings were so wild I knew it wasn’t going to be 17-16 though,” Rinehart said. “There was going to be a period where teams cooled off and pitchers settled down.”
In fact, Rinehart credited his team’s patience in the ninth inning with finally pushing the go-ahead run across.
Five of the eight half-innings from the fifth to the eighth inning saw teams go down 1-2-3 as players began chasing pitches to come up with a big hit. But Mooney (5-0) worked two walks and made Kenneally come across the plate with strikes before DiFabio’s big hit.
“I was just trying to get on base,” DiFabio said. “I thought [the center fielder] caught it. I didn’t know where it went at first.”
The inning began with a Jordan McLay walk and after Kelly Williams had a bunt hit her while in play, Chet Rinaldi placed a looper into shallow right field that nobody could get under. Rutherford flew out to center to make it two outs but then Bridget Sweeney drew another walk from Kenneally to load the bases and then DiFabio came through in the big spot.
“The emotional roller coaster was amazing today,” Rinehart said. “You just have to try to keep them focused and playing hard as well as accountable when they do make mistakes.”
Rutherford struck out five while having to work around eight Ursuline hits and six errors by her defense. It wasn’t the cleanest outing, but that’s what Rutherford expected.
“You just can’t let that stuff bother you,” Rutherford said. “That was a war. You don’t quit and lie down in the Holy War.”
Ursuline hasn’t caught many breaks this year. The Irish (6-4) have lost three extra-inning games and another one by a 13-12 score.
“This team needs to mature,” Ursuline head coach Michael Kernan said. “We had the opportunity to win, we just didn’t make it happen.
Kernan said losing a game of this magnitude is going to hurt but it’s something his team of just two seniors and one junior can grow on.
“We’re young,” Kernan said. “This is a good place to put this game behind us and grow from it.”