Thursday’s (April 17) 3-0 softball win by Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor over visiting Chandler Hamilton was about as quality of a victory as a team could get outside the state tournament.
The Eagles got a strong pitching performance from freshman Emma Visely and stayed cool under pressure.
“Hamilton is an awesome team, but we stepped up and fought all the way through, played to that potential we have,’’ said O’Connor coach Melissa Hobson.
O’Connor, No. 5 in Division I power points entering Thursday’s play, raised its record to 21-4. Hamilton, which was No. 4, slipped to 20-8.
Vesely scattered six hits and escaped a big jam in the sixth inning.
O’Connor was nursing a 1-0 lead and Hamilton had runners at first and second with one out.
Hamilton’s Jamie Hatch hit a grounder to Eagles shortstop Gavyn Gerardin. Gerardin looked to toss the ball to third baseman Hayley Busby for the forceout, but Busby lost her footing in an attempt to get over to the bag. Gerardin had the presence of mind to hang onto the ball and outraced the baserunner to third just in the nick of time for the force.
Vesely walked the next hitter to load the bases, but got the third out on a grounder to first.
O’Connor responded in the bottom of the sixth by scoring a pair of big insurance runs.
It appeared Vesely would at least lose the shutout in the seventh. Bella Loomis hit a one-out double and advanced to third on a groundout. Nicole Spykstra hit a ground ball to Busby’s left. Busby’s momentum took her to her knees, but she still was able to throw the runner out at first to end the game and keep Hamilton off the board.
Hobson said Busby had made similar plays earlier in the season, and maintained her composure.
The coach also liked the way Vesely remained calm.
“You never really know if she’s up, down, mad or sad. She always keeps a straight face and is even-keeled,’’ Hobson said. “You don’t find that in many pitchers, especially freshman pitchers.’’
Kelsey Banales drove in the Eagles’ first run with a fifth-inning single. In the sixth, Busby drove in a run with a high-bouncing infield hit and Stevie McLemore brought the other run in with a single to right-center.
O’Connor has five games remaining in the regular season, all against quality opponents – Gilbert Highland (April 21), at Peoria Liberty (April 23), Glendale Mountain Ridge (April 25), Phoenix Pinnacle (April 28) and at Peoria Centennial (April 29).
Hamilton has three left – at Tempe Corona del Sol (April 22), Mesa Desert Ridge (April 24) and at Gilbert Perry (April 30).