Poland overpowers Girard in NE8 softball tilt

Staff photo / Preston Byers Poland pitcher Olivia Horn preparing to throw to a Girard batter during the Bulldogs’ 14-2 win on Tuesday.

GIRARD — Poland started scoring early and did not stop, as the Bulldogs bludgeoned Girard 14-2 in an early-season softball clash between the Northeast-8 Conference opponents on Tuesday in Girard.

Olivia Horn starred both in the circle and at the plate for Poland, throwing five strikeouts while recording four hits and three RBIs in five at-bats. Leanne Williams and Leanna Boccieri also drove in multiple runners each as the Bulldogs ran away with Tuesday’s game.

Poland head coach Jim Serich praised Horn’s two-sided performance, saying she was “outstanding,” particularly since she helped bolster the middle of the Bulldogs’ batting order.

After allowing a leadoff hit in the bottom of the first, Horn made quick work of Girard’s lineup. She breezed through the first four innings without much trouble, only allowing two hits and zero runs. At the plate, she singled in the second, recorded an RBI double in the third to make it a 4-0 ballgame and singled again to lead off the fifth.

To start the bottom of the fifth, however, Horn walked Molly Durkin. Two batters later, after a double play, Kyra Bell crushed a ball to deep right-center field and reached third on a triple. Destiny Flaherty then drove Bell home, scoring Girard’s first run of the game. Horn recovered to force Malina Serrano into a groundout to end the inning.

After reaching on error in the top of the sixth, Horn found her groove again in the circle in the bottom of the inning and retired the side in order.

In the seventh, Horn helped the Bulldogs pad their lead with a two-run double to right field, giving Poland its 13th and 14th runs of the game. Despite allowing another run off of a Bell double, Horn closed the game out in the circle to earn her fourth win of the season.

Along with Horn, the top and bottom of the order for Poland did the most damage on Tuesday; leadoff hitter Elliana Thompson, Boccieri, Sydney Bulick and Avery Jakubovic combined for 10 runs and nine hits. In total, Poland recorded 16 hits and did not commit an error.

The same cannot be said for Girard, which was limited to five hits and committed five errors.

“We made a lot of errors, physically and mentally. That’s one thing that we have to correct,” Girard head coach Jim Keagy said. “The fundamentals, the fielding the ball, the throwing the ball and catching, those are all things we got to work on.”

Tuesday’s game also served as another step in Mary Brant’s recovery. Brant, Poland’s senior shortstop who is committed to play softball at Robert Morris University, sustained a tibial tendon tear in her right foot in the fall and had her basketball season cut short due to overbearing pain.

Brant made her season debut during the Bulldogs’ home doubleheader against Liberty and McDonald on Sunday, going a combined 2-8 with a run and 3 RBIs. Against Girard, Brant went 1-4, drove in another run and drew a walk.

Serich said Brant did not deal with any pain after playing the doubleheader but admitted it may be a process for her to return to the form she showed at the plate last season when she hit .573, 39 RBIs and 10 home runs.

“It’s going to take her a little while to get going. She looked OK [today], a little out front, but she’s only seen live pitching [for] three games. So it’ll come around. I’m not worried about Mary.”

Serich said despite the relatively slow offensive start, having Brant, a four-year starting shortstop, back in the infield is the greatest benefit of all.

“That’s your coach in the field. You see how quick she releases the ball on ground balls. She’s that D1 player in the middle of the infield… Once you have that, you get the captain back out on the field. She kind of kind of controls everything,” Serich said. “Having Mary back in the middle of the field is huge.”

Poland and Girard are set to face off against each other again today as Poland will host the conference rematch.

Have an interesting story? Contact Preston Byers by email at pbyers@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @PresByers.


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