MORRIS — It was getting to that point in a softball game where everyone gets nervous, surely thinking about a possible history-making moment.
Morris senior pitcher Ella Davis had pitched a flawless game, retiring the first 17 Wilmington batters she faced before yielding a two-out walk in the bottom of the sixth that broke up her bid for perfection.
A one-out bloop hit and a gigantic home run by Wildcats senior Olivia Hansen in the top of the seventh also ended Davis’ chance at a no-hitter and a shutout. But Davis still stood triumphant after allowing just two hits, two runs and one walk while striking out 11, including seven looking, as she led her team to a 5-2 victory over Wilmington during the hosts’ season opener Monday afternoon in Morris.
“My curve was really working well today, and I usually have a knuckleball and a changeup that work better, but I’m not disappointed in the way I pitched,” Davis said. “Maybe I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t close it out for a perfect game, a no-hitter or a shutout so late in the contest, but this is a team game overall, and our team played fantastic today.
“I couldn’t be happier of the way our first game went getting the win.”
Davis also added two singles and an RBI. Junior Elaina Vidales matched Davis with a pair of base knocks. But in the end, it was all about Davis’ commanding presence in the circle that carried the day.
“Today Ella was in control for the most part, and once she got behind she was able to get back in the count, which is always nice for her,” Morris coach Jen Bamonte said. “After being perfect for so long in the game she gave up that walk in the sixth, the little bloop hit in the seventh and then the home run which was a little disappointing for her, but overall she put up such a dominating performance and put her team in a really great place with a chance to win, and we ultimately pushed enough runs across to get the job done behind her.”
With Davis cruising along in the early innings, Morris tallied two unearned runs in the bottom of the third against Hansen (6 IP, 5 R, 3 ER, 6 H, 7 K, 1 BB), who tossed a solid game in her own right. With two gone, Addison Stacy reached third on a Wilmington infield throwing error that bounced down the right-field line.
Karson Dransfeldt then celebrated her 16th birthday by reaching second base on a Wildcats infield miscue that plated Stacy for a 1-0 Morris lead. Dransfeldt then stole third and eventually plated on Davis’ RBI single to right that put the home squad up 2-0 after three frames.
“I wanted to contribute today at the plate to go along with my pitching, and I got a chance to do that after they made a couple of errors,” Davis said. “I saw a strike first, then got a pitch I liked, which helped get us going offensively.”
Morris made it 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth after Stacy laced a ball into the hole at shortstop that caromed into foul territory off the glove of Grace Burkey. Stacy hustled into second on the play for a double and crossed the plate after two wild pitches from Hansen.
Kylee Claypool then doubled to deep center to lead off the bottom of the sixth followed by a single to right by Vidales that moved her to third. Both would eventually scamper home on wild pitches to put Morris ahead 5-0 after six.
Wilmington (1-1) finally broke Davis’ hitless performance in the top of the seventh when Kaitlynn O’Donnell lofted a one-out single to right for the Wildcats first hit of the contest. Hansen followed with the towering homer to dead center before Davis closed with a strikeout and a routine infield groundout.
“[Davis] pitched a very good game, no doubt, and I was proud of our girls today going against a very solid Morris team and a great pitcher,” Wilmington coach Jack Skole said. “We’re a very young ballclub with some players that have never seen a varsity contest, but the girls kept battling, saying in the dugout that [Davis] wasn’t going to get a perfect game, a no-hitter or a shutout against them.
“Even though we lost, as a coach it was great to see us battle until the end.”