Ma-ri-ah, inexperience deny Softball’s upset bid at tradition-rich,
#6-seed CDO

By Pete Mohr | May 19, 2010

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Girls just wanta have fun! (l-r) Lauren Clepper, Maggie Heberle, Amber Underdown, Camille McIver, Courtney Snyder, Gracie Goulder, Kristin Hillier, Shea Smothermon, Megan Scarpulla, Elyssa Hartsock, Candace Irons (not pictured: Taylor Decker)

Courtesy photo by Doug McIver

“Ma-ri-ah! … Ma-ri-ah! They call the wind Ma-ri-ah!” from the Broadway musical “Paint Your Wagon.”
ORO VALLEY –Thanks to the proactivity of Athletic Director Mark Huston at the start of the 2010 season, the first permanent outfield fencing was installed at Lady Falcons Field. At Canyon del Oro (CDO), the outfield fence is adorned from foul pole to foul pole with 27 banners (I counted ‘em) honoring Lady Dorados who have graduated to Division I softball programs.

When All-Region shortstop Gracie Goulder becomes a University of Georgia LadyBulldog in the fall of 2011, she’ll be only the second Lady Falcon alumna to play at the D-I level. Val Laschen, CSHS ’06, at Iona University, was the first. Plain to see that at CDO, in the shadow of the spectacularly-rugged Oro Mountains, they take their softball more than seriously. “Hooray!” for tradition – even when it belongs to a CSHS opponent. Cactus Shadows Softball is ready to establish a few of their own. Tradition births experience, which makes for cooler heads in game-decisive situations.

Lady Falcons lead, 1-0, on Goulder’s first of three walks, a steal of second and rundown savvy in the 1st. Credit Kristin Hillier’s fielder’s choice groundout with producing the LadyBirds’ only RBI of the game. Shea Smothermon walks to lead off the 3rd, then steals second.

Goulder draws her second walk. CDO’s first baseman is perfectly positioned to snag Lauren Clepper’s move-the-runners bunt attempt.

One out. Elyssa Hartsock lines a single to left center. With Hillier and Amber Underdown the next two hitters, Head Coach Danica Gianni plays it safe, stopping Smothermon at third. Bases loaded, one out.

This writer has opined, on more than one occasion, “Stick around high school sports long enough and you’ll see plays (situations) you’ve never seen before.” One of those follows. Hillier lofts a pop that was headed into short right. The CDO second baseman turns her back to the infield and scrambles in her attempt to make the catch; but “Ma-ri-ah” (the “expletive-deleted” wind!), steadily in full force from dead center the entire game, blows the ball back to the edge of the infield, where said second baseman muffs the catch! She immediately recovers, firing home to force a sliding Smothermon for the second out.

“C’mon, ‘Blue’!” yelled the CSHS fans in unison, “Infield fly rule!” The umpires are not moved. Had they invoked the infield fly rule, no force at the plate would’ve been in effect; and Smothermon, who, upon the dropped pop, took off for the plate, would have required a tag by the CDO catcher to record the second out. Bases still loaded still loaded, but now two out. “Ma-ri-ah” holds up Underdown’s soft fly for the threat-snuffing third out. G-r-o-a-n!

Postgame, Softball parent Andy Goulder sought out the departing umps for an explanation of the no-call. They deemed the fielder (the CDO second baseman) unable to make the catch “with ordinary effort” (from Goulder’s later search of “Major League Baseball Rules”). Under the windblown circumstances, the umpires’ decision could’ve gone either way; but there’s no question: “Ma-ri-ah” created the confusion that went against the LadyBirds, reinforcing my long-held observation that wind is good for only three things: sailing, flying kites, and wind farms!

The Lady Dorados, on single runs in the 4th and 5th, took a 2-1 lead into the 7th. Their second pitcher, Nellie Chrisman, was cruising,’ with only three outs to get. Megan Scarpulla leads off the LadyBirds’ “last call” with a perfect bunt, which the CDO third baseman promptly air mailed into the rightfield corner. Scarpulla races to third! Coach Gianni opts for a pinch runner’s speed, then puts on a “safety squeeze.” Disaster strikes! The CDO catcher pounces on Smothermon’s bunt and alertly freezes the runner, who’d taken too big a lead and was the first out trying to get back safely into third.

These fightin’ Lady Falcs weren’t about to quit. Smothermon steals second, her second theft of the game. Goulder, after fouling off six 3-2 pitches, draws her third walk. Clepper, too, battles hard on a full count, but flys to short right. Two out. Hartsock, on an “excuse me” half-swing, grounds back to Chrisman. G-r-o-a-n! – one last time.

Game – and season – over.

 “Jubilation City” for the 6th seeded Lady Dorados who, to their credit, played smart enough to escape our #14 Ladies, left disbelieving that they’d come so doggone close to pulling off their second upset in three days of a “Top Ten” team (#3 Peoria, 17-13, on Saturday, May 8).

But they cried no tears and held their heads high, which is what classy teams – guided by a classy coach – do. A solid 9-9 they were in regular season; 1-1 in State Playoffs, their first appearance since 2006.

Only Lauren Clepper, Candace Irons and Courtney Snyder will graduate from the flock come May 20. 

So well-deserved congratulations to Coach Gianni, Assistant Coach Bill Ferguson Pitching Coach Doug McIver, “Stat Mom” Ember Hartsock and, of course, the Lady Falcons. Watch out for these gals in 2011!