Crawling to the Bag

After fielding a grounder, Titusville’s Danica Fonzo crawls to first to tag the bag before Hickory runner Jaclyn Fustos arrives.

The Hickory softball team is the class of Region 4 in 2021. The Hornets clinched the region title on Wednesday with a 12-1 win over Sharon. And they’ve been beating teams pretty thoroughly all season long.

There have been exceptions, of course.

One of them has been Titusville.

When the two teams played back on April 22 Hickory needed eight innings to beat the Rockets 3-2. And the only reason there was an eighth inning was because of a controversial call that went Hickory’s way in the bottom of the seventh and allowed the Hornets to tie the game.

Granted, Hickory didn’t throw its top pitcher that day. And, head coach Will Zachrich was out with COVID.

But still, Titusville came into that game with one win on the year and nearly pulled off a huge upset.

Well, the rematch was Thursday at the Ed Myer Complex. Zachrich was back in the third base coach’s box. And team ace Carlie Miller was in the pitching circle. And Titusville head coach Hannah Borkovich admitted that she thought that the full-power Hornets were really going to give her freshmen-filled group the business.

True, the Hornets led wire-to-wire on its way to a 7-0 victory over the Rockets. However, Borkovich was still somewhat heartened to see that the competitive gap between the 17-win, athlete-after-athlete Hornets and her own three-win squad maybe isn’t as vast as some might expect.

“(Hickory) is a solid team and they are deep with athletes,” said Borkovich. “And they’re a nice team. They’re well coached. They’re well disciplined. … And when you get good solid programs like Hickory, it’s tough. It’s tough, because they play all year long together, for years and yearsw. And I’m just now starting to get the feeder program to me.

“So, it was a good game. I told the girls, I expected it to be more than that.”

The most glaring difference between the two teams was on the defensive end.

Of course, Hickory’s defense didn’t get a real extreme test, with Miller throwing a three-hitter while striking out a dozen batters.

“Our pitcher was good,” said coach Zachrich. “And I thought our defense played well too.”

Yet, Audrey Herman, pitching for Titusville, held her own against the Hornets lineup. She only gave up six hits, walked three and struck out 11.

The defense behind Herman wasn’t exactly crisp, though.

“We had 12 errors,” said Borkovich. “You cannot have 12 defensive, visible errors. We had three dropped third strikes where they got on base.”

The Titusville defense did make some plays. And that kept Hickory from turning things into a mercy rule rout.

And even if the Rockets played a perfect game of defense, it’s hard to say that the end result would have been different, as offense was hard to come by against Miller.

“She’s solid throughout,” Borkovich said about Miller. “And she’s got speed. Velocity-wise, she’s probably the quickest that we’ve seen all year. The top of my order, they can get around on it. But my younger ones at the bottom really struggle with that. And that’s just experience. They’ll get there.”

Brianna Wynn got to Miller early. Leading off the first, the Hornets’ middle infield crept in when they saw Wynn striding up the batter’s box for a slap bunt. But Wynn dinked one over their heads into shallow left-center for a single.

Miller than retired nine in a row.

Then in the top of the fourth, Danica Fonzo hit a comebacker to Miller, and then beat the throw to first for the next single.

Titusville got its third and final hit of the game when Audrey Herman led off the seventh by beating out a ground ball to second.

The next three batters went down in order to end the game.

Over in the other dugout, Miller, Ella Holland and Kaelyn Fustos all recorded doubles during the game. Miller later added an RBI single. Hallie Miller and Malaiah Burns also had singles.

Each of Hickory’s batters were Buddhist-level patient at the plate, making Herman work through 143 pitches.

Herman lost some of those battles, but probably won even more.

“Pitching wise, we’re there,” said Borkovich. “Defensively, we’re not there. And offensively, we’re not there. We’re there with about four of our girls. That will come.”

With the win, Hickory improved to 17-2 overall and 15-1 in Region 4.

Titusville dropped to 3-12 on the season, 3-11 in the region. The Rockets finish the season on Saturday, traveling to Meadville for an 11 a.m. first pitch.

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