GSW softball wins regional opener
SOUTH WILMINGTON — There might be better ways to begin the postseason than the Gardner-South Wilmington softball team did Monday night, but there aren't many.
The third-seeded Lady Panthers collected 15 hits and pitcher Katie Gretz threw a one-hitter to help defeat sixth-seeded St. Anne 15-2 in five innings. The win advances GSW (13-15) to Wednesday's Class 1A Dwight Regional semifinal against second-seeded Donovan.
Due to a recent roster shake-up, Paige Lardi was behind the plate for the first time all season for GSW, but it didn't seem to faze her. She went 3-for-4 with a double, triple and two RBIs, while she and Gretz worked together with near flawless execution. In fact, St. Anne's leadoff batter, Mackenzie Peters, walked, but Lardi threw her out trying to steal, answering any question about her ability as a catcher.
"There really wasn't much difference with Paige behind the plate," said Gretz, who struck out four and walked six. "She caught some for us last year, so we were pretty much on the same page."
Both teams went scoreless in the first inning, but after Gretz stranded a pair of St. Anne walks in the second, the Lady Panthers went to work.
Becca Bernady led off with a walk and Lexi Posing, who finished 3 for 4 with four RBI, singled to left. Julie Chambers followed suit, and the ball got under the legs of the St. Anne left fielder, allowing both Bernady and Posing to score. Chambers was out trying to reach third, but that did nothing to stem the tide. Jordan Kirk reached on an error and Ally Matthews followed with a single. Gretz then slugged a triple to left, scoring both runners for a 4-0 GSW lead. Lardi followed with a double to plate Gretz. Abby Horrie reached on an error before a single to left by Sophie Barna scored Lardi for a 6-0 Lady Panther edge. Bernady walked to load the bases, and Posing singled up the middle to plate Horrie and Barna and cap the inning's scoring with the Lady Panthers leading 8-0.
Armed with a sizable advantage, Gretz made quick work of St. Anne in the third, shutting the Cardinals down in order.
"It was nice to have a big lead early," Gretz said. "It takes a lot of pressure off. A lot of times this year, we've waited until the end to get the offense going, but today we did it early."
GSW made the lead even bigger in the third. Matthews led off with a walk and Gretz was hit by a pitch. She was forced at second on a ball hit by Lardi and Horrie followed with an infield single to third that scored Matthews for a 9-0 lead. Barna was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Bernady got hit to score Lardi and make it 10-0. Posing followed with a single up the middle to score Horrie and Barna to make it 12-0.
Gretz got the first two batters out in the top of the fourth before losing the strike zone and walking the bases loaded. The only hit she allowed, a single by Cassidy Stalnecker, scored two runs to make it 12-2 before Gretz got the next batter to ground out to her.
"We always seem to have one inning that things get away from us a little," GSW coach Michelle Lardi said. "But, overall, the girls played real well. We had a few girls — Ally Matthews, Jordan Kirk and Taylor Speed — come up from the JV team and played pretty well. Now they have a playoff game under their belts.
"We hit the ball well all day. We split with Donovan this year, and the game we lost, we did not play well at all. If we can take some of this game with us Wednesday, we like our chances against them."
Speed led off the bottom of the fourth with a single and came home on Lardi's triple. Horrie hit an infield single to third before a double to left by Barna scored both runners to cap the scoring.
"It's nice to get a win this time of year because we get to keep playing," Gretz said. "We know we can beat Donovan because we already have, so hopefully we will get to keep playing after Wednesday."