By BILL RUDICK

Brudick55@gmail.com

MALVERN — Nazareth Academy has been the queens of the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies softball heap for a few years now, but they may have company this year.

Villa Maria came into Wednesday's in a three-way tie with Nazareth and Villa Joseph Marie, they left in a two-way deadlock after fashioning a 2-1 victory over the defeding league champions."Being a senior, I've been waiting a long time for this,' said Villa's Gabby Costagliola, who keyed the offense by going 2-for-3 and knocking in both runs. "It's really nice to be winning as a team the way we are this year.'

The Pandas (7-3) had the first major threat of the afternoon, loading the bases with two outs in the third with their best hitter, Brittany Colombo, standing in the box. Colombo and Villa pitcher Maddie Abbot dueled through a seven-pitch at-bat, before Abbot won the battle as Colombo lofted a fly to center that was run down by Marissa Golden."I've heard a lot about her (Colombo),' said Abbot. "I knew she was a good hitter, so the at-bat was pretty nerve wracking. It was just great to get out of that inning with no runs scored.'

Having survived unscathed, Villa (8-2, 10-2) went to work in the bottom half of the third. Bridget Curley led off with a bloop single to short right, but was erased on a force when Cailee Gordinier grounded to short. Gordinier moved up to second on a single from Golden, then loaded the bases on a single by Sarahrose Jonik. Costagliola then delivered an important two-out double to right to bring in Gordiner and Golden for a 2-0 advantage. "It was a changeup, and I usually hate changeups,' said a smiling Costagliola. "I'm honestly not sure how I hit it.'

One person unsurprised by Costagliola coming through in the clutch was her coach, Claire Emplit.

"I've nicknamed her the ' RBI Queen,'' said Emplit. "She is consistently good in the clutch. I always know I can rely on her to come through when we need it most.'

Abbot, meanwhile, was sharp, allowing a run in the sixth inning, scattering four hits with four walks and six strike outs."I went to my riseball a lot today,' said Abbot. "But everything was working well, and the defense was as good as always behind me.'

With three games still to play in the league, Villa's work is hardly complete, but it's always great to knock off the defending champ head-to-head.

"Nazareth has won this league for the last seven or eight years,' said Emplit. "This is a huge win for us.'

The Hurricanes have a short time to savor the win, though, as they vist Villa Joseph Marie in a showdown with first place on the line.

"This game was scheduled and rescheduled so many times, we were all starting to get pretty anxious,' said Costagliola. "Actually getting a win over them is going to send our confidence levels way up. We now know we can beat them, and teams as good as them.'

Villa Maria 2, Nazareth Academy 1

NAZ ab r h bi VILLA ab r h biJennings cf 4 0 0 0 Gordiner ss 3 1 0 0

Kelesse 2b 3 0 1 0 Golden cf 3 1 2 0

Bovitt ss 2 1 1 0 Jonik 2b 3 0 1 0

Colombo 3b 2 0 1 1 Chambers 3b 3 0 0 0

Perri dp 2 0 1 1 Costagliola 1b 3 0 2 2

Cox c 2 0 1 0 Butler c 2 0 0 0

B. Hunter 1b 3 0 0 0 Abbot p 2 0 0 0

Miller lf 2 0 0 0 Wright rf 3 0 1 0

Misnik rf 2 0 0 0 Curley lf 3 0 1 0

A. Hunter ph 1 0 0 0

Lichtenhahn p 0 0 0 0 Totals 24 1 4 1 Totals 25 2 7 2

Nazareth 000 001 0 -- 1

Villa Maria 002 000 x-- 22B - Costagliola. 3B -- Bovitt.

IP H R BB SO

Nazareth AcademyLichtenhahn, L 6 7 2 1 4Villa MariaAbbot, W 7 4 2 2 4