KENNETT SQUARE — Nobody in the visiting dugout were around the last time Unionville beat Kennett in softball. About as close as it got was Melanie Hammond, whose older sister was on the last team to get a win over its fiercest rival. But Maddie Ross and Austin Langerhans brought an end to the seven-year hex.
Ross broke a scorless duel by brining home Elise Rocconi with a two-out, double to the gap in left center in the top of the seventh and Langerhans, pitching in relief of Rocconi, shut down the Blue Demons in the bottom half of the inning to give the Indians a 1-0 CheMont League American Division victory Friday.
"I can't even begin to describe how incredible this feels,' said Ross. "I came to the plate knowing that we really needed to get it done now, so I had to get something. I got a pitch down the middle, and got it done. I just feels great.'
The battle between the top two teams in the American Division was about as well-played as one could hope for in a high school softball game, with good pitching, great defense, and late-inning heroics.
"Both teams played really well,' said Unionville coach Janelle Hadley. "I think the first time we played it was about 20 degrees out, and it wasn't the best softball. This is a huge win for us.'
The teams have now split the season series, with the visitors proving triumphant. Kennett's (7-2) lead in the division shrinks to a mere half game over Unionville (6-2).
"We're about halfway through a long season,' said Kennett coach Kevin Reigel. "Unionville is playing really well right now. There's isn't any one thing you can point to as why we lost today. We just have to put it behind us and have a good second half, too.'
Kennett threatened in the first when Miya Bonifacino reached on an error. Katie DeStefano, who paced the Blue Demons with two doubles, ripped a shot to the gap in left center. Bonifacino headed for home, but the Indians worked the relay, and catcher Kate Mims just got the tag down on her for the out.
Rocconi got the start in the circle and was effective early, keeping Kennett hitters off balance with her change-up. Rocconi gave up five hits and walk while striking out three, but she ran into a spot of trouble in the sixth.
With runners on second and third and nobody out, Rocconi was lifted for Austin Langerhans. The first hitter she faced, catcher Camille Brown, dropped down a bunt. Ross, charging in from third, fielded it, faked throwing to first and caught pinch runner Sarah Oscar in a rundown, who was tagged out shortly thereafter.
"That was a gutsy play from Maddie,' said Hadley. "But she called it even before it happened.'
Langerhans retired the last two hitters to escape the inning with no damage.
"She's just so mentally tough,' said Hadley. "I bring her in in situations like that all the time and she simply doesn't flinch.'
It didn't take long for Ross to be in the hero's role again as her clutch hit against Kennett's Brooke Harner ended the parade of zeros on the scoreboard.
Langherhans struck out two of the four hitters she faced in the seventh to close out the game and earn the victory.
"It's definitely nerve racking,' said Langerhans of coming in during pressure situations. "But I also know my defense is going to make plays behind me, so that takes a little of the nerves away.'
Leading the way offensively for the Indians were Ross and Amy Large, who had a pair of hits, including a double each.
The Indians are now starting to realize they just might have something here this season.
"We were nowhere near this many wins at this time last year,' said Langerhans. "We are so much better this year. It's just a great group of girls, and we're really like a family.'
Unionville 1, Kennett 0
UVILLE ab r h bi KEN ab r h biRoss 3b 4 0 2 1 Harvey cf 2 0 0 0
Hammond 2b 3 0 0 0 Bonifacino 3b 3 0 0 0
Large 1b 3 0 2 0 DeStefano 1b 4 0 2 0
Mims c 3 0 1 0 Oscar pr 0 0 0 0
Langerhans p 3 0 0 0 Chapman ss 3 0 1 0
Hojnacki lf 3 0 1 0 Brown c 2 0 1 0
Rocconi p 3 1 1 0 Beeson lf 3 0 1 0
Knight rf 2 0 0 0 Harner p 3 0 0 0
Kurey ph 1 0 0 0 Wessels rf 3 0 1 0
Nance cf 3 0 1 0 Reigel 2b 2 0 0 0Totals 25 0 6 0 Totals 28 1 8 1
Unionville 000 000 00 -- 0
Kennett 000 000 00 -- 02B - Ross, Large, DeStefano 2.
IP H R BB SO
UnionvilleRocconi 5 5 0 1 3
Langerhans, W 2 1 0 0 2KennettHarner, L 7 8 1 0 11
Rocconi pitched to two batters in the 6th.