Orange softball moves on in Northwest Region

Between Aysa Richardson’s usual great stuff in the circle for Orange County and the solid start offensively, the Hornets look like they were going to coast to a Northwest Region quarterfinal win over Forest Park. But the last two innings saw Richardson and her defense get put to the test as after getting only two base runners in the first five innings, the final two had five and also included a bases loaded situation with the Bruins down to their last out. The Hornets didn’t panic though. A ground ball to Jamie Anderson was all that was needed to end the threat and preserve a 3-1 win.

“They all came together at the end to finish this for us,” said Orange coach Doris Buzzell. “It was good, but it was scary. Aysa said she was fine so we kept at it… but the girls came out from the get go. We told them to stay positive and they did.”

The Hornets picked up all three of their runs in the top of the first starting with Richardson who singled and then stole a pair of bases before being driven home on an infield single from Haley Jones. After a single from Morgan Capaldo, Anderson then delivered a sacrifice to score Jones. Capaldo was plated in the next at bat by Alexis Bledsoe.

“We just all started hitting,” Bledsoe said.  “Everyone got (riled) up and then we got everyone around the bases.”

The 3-0 lead turned out to be all that Richardson needed as she sat down 11 of the first 13 batters she faced and struck out six straight batters between the fourth and sixth innings. The senior finished with 11 strikeouts on the night, but had to work out of two jams, starting with one with two outs in the sixth.

“When they saw that I was going outside they tried to adjust and started swinging, but I adjusted too,” Richardson said.

Forest Park got on the board with two outs on a RBI single from Jess Middleton, but averted further damage with runners on first and third when Chantill Jones was caught trying to get back to third base. In the seventh, a walk, single and hit batter put the bases loaded with two outs, but a routine grounder to second base ended the scoring threat and locked up the win for Orange.

“They really started crowding the plate at the end so I had to change things up, but then when they scored the run in the sixth I knew I had to change it up again,” Richardson said. “I just tried to keep focused.”

The Hornets now get a chance to play for a Group AAA bid, the first such opportunity for any Orange team sport since the school made the transition up from AA. The Hornets will host Franklin County on Wednesday at 5 p.m.

“We’re going to have to continue to hit, to hit more than just the first inning from here now because it’s only going to get more difficult,” Richardson said.