LINCOLN -- This No. 9 batter delivered the No. 1 hit of her high school career on Friday afternoon.
Senior left fielder Marissa Walsh’s walkoff one-out single in the seventh inning delivered the run that gave Lincoln High a big 1-0 victory over Mount St. Charles Academy in their early showdown of Division I-North heavyweights at Saylesville Elementary School.
Walsh’s clutch hit settled a superb pitchers’ duel between the Lions’ Alyssa McCoart and the Mounties’ Olivia Hendricks and gave her team their second win of the young season.
“We’re very happy with this win,” noted Lincoln coach Jon Bruckner. “Mount is a super-talented team that’s very well-coached. They’ve proven it year after year; they’ve made their runs, and they’ve won our division and reached the championship. This was a good game to have early in the season and a great experience for these girls to have.”
While Bruckner was pleased with the victory, he was ecstatic with the big hit he received from the last batter in his lineup.
Emily Bouthillette led the home half of the seventh with her second hit of the afternoon, a line single up the middle, and she moved into scoring position by hustling to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sarah Albanese.
That brought Walsh to the plate, but before she dug into the batter’s box, Bruckner opted to insert freshman Casie Beauchemin as a courtesy runner for Bouthillette.
But Beauchemin didn’t stay on second too long. On Hendricks’ fifth pitch to Walsh, she bounced a fastball in the dirt. Catcher Alyssa Lanzi made a nice stop on the wild offering, but Beauchemin was still able to head into third with ease.
The Mounties then brought in their infield, and after Walsh fouled off a two-strike pitch to the backstop, she ripped her decisive single past the dive of shortstop Emily Hendricks and into center field to plate Beauchemin.
“I’m so proud of Marissa,” said Bruckner. “Four-year player, biggest hit of her career by far, kind of a sparkplug-type of player -- just very emotional and does a really good job just keeping everyone up and positive -- so everyone’s really excited for her. She really did a great job.”
Walsh’s hit also made a well-deserved winner out of McCoart, who finished with a two-hitter that saw her struck out five batters, issue no walks, and allow just five batted balls to reach the outfield.
McCoart, who is heading to Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Conn. on a softball scholarship, was coming off a five-hit, six-strikeout effort in Wednesday’s season-opening 11-1 win over Smithfield High, but on Friday, she stepped her game up a few notches.
“She was fantastic,” remarked Bruckner. “She was actually a little shaky on Wednesday, to be honest with you. She wasn’t really happy and her stuff really wasn’t moving, so we decided to come back with her. She really wanted it, and today, she came out and proved why she’s one of the top pitchers in the state.”
Bruckner wasn’t the only person who took note of McCoart’s performance. MSC coach Cliff Matthews, whose team collected 11 hits on Wednesday in a season-opening 5-1 win over Cumberland High and ace hurler Bethany Paul, also gave credit to where it was due.
“Alyssa McCoart threw the ball better than I’ve ever seen her throw against us, that’s for sure,” said Matthews. “Her stuff was working, and she kept our hitters guessing and little off-balanced. We weren’t able to put the pressure on her that we did Wednesday against Bethany Paul, and that’s a credit to her.”
The Mounties only got one runner past first base, and that came in their opening swings. Leadoff batter Taylor Messier lined McCoart’s first pitch into left field for a single, and when it was misplayed and went to the fence, Messier was able to take two extra bases.
But McCoart stranded Messier on third by striking out the next batter she faced, getting the next one to sky out in the infield, and picking up the third out on a groundout.
The Mounties also got a strong start out of Hendricks, who limited the Lions to five hits. The Lions tried to rally off Hendricks in the first and sixth innings by putting runners on first and second with one out, but both times, Hendricks battled out of both jams.
“Both teams got off to a rocky starts, but both teams rebounded and played pretty good softball from that point on,” said Matthews. “But (give) credit to them. Their hitters came through in the seventh.”
Mount St. Charles 000 000 0—0-2-3
Lincoln 000 000 1—1-5-2
Olivia Hendricks and Alyssa Lanzi; Alyssa McCoart and Allie Dzialo.