Montverde races by Trinity Catholic with dominant pitching and feisty offense

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Posted March 22, 2023 | By Allen Barney
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

The Montverde Academy Eagles (5-4) softball team used a balanced offensive attack that saw eight different hitters get at least one hit in a 10-0 win over the Trinity Catholic Celtics (7-8) on Wednesday night.

Montverde attacked early and often with Luna Taboas leading off the game with a double to left field. Taboas never stopped running as an errant throw from the outfield allowed the freshman to scamper home for a little league inside-the-park home run. Following another error from Trinity Catholic and two stolen bases from Aracelis Jimenez, Colby Reish drove in Jimenez with a double to left field.

With a 2-0 lead, Jimenez went to work in the circle as she fired a scoreless first inning against the Trinity Catholic lineup. The Celtics had an opportunity to score after Emma Kaylor drew a walk and stole second base but was called out for interference when she ran into the shortstop on a ground ball off the bat of Kinley Libby.

Libby kept Montverde off the scoreboard in the second innings despite giving up two hits, Libby struck out Lexi Perez to get out of the jam. Jimenez fired a second consecutive scoreless inning by working around a one-out walk to Kristina Fogelman.

Montverde added to their lead in the top of the third inning with Danika Spinogatti and Reish starting the inning with base hits. Following a sacrifice bunt from Jenna Meder, Leila Susaia missed a three-run home run by just a couple of inches when the ball hit the top of the fence in left field and bounced back into play.

Fortunately, Spinogatti and Reish scored to give Montverde a 4-0 lead. Monteverde head coach Caitlin Griffis was happy to see Susaia break out of her early season slump with a big hit.

“She needed that as a confidence boost because it’s been tough stretch for her after leading the team in batting average last season,” Griffis said.

Trinity Catholic picked up their first hit of the night in the bottom of the third when Emma Simms laced a single to left to leadoff the inning but was stranded at second as relief pitcher Emerson Gunkel bounced back with two strikeouts and a flyout.

Montverde put more insurance runs on the board in the top of the fourth when Spinogatti launched a massive two-run home run to center field to extend the lead to 6-0. Gunkel fired a scoreless bottom of the fourth to keep Trinity Catholic at bay.

In the top of the fifth, Montverde put the nail in the coffin as Taboas hit a run-scoring single and was followed by Perez, who hit a run-scoring single of her own. On the hit by Perez, a second run would score on a throwing error and Reish would drive in the final run with a run-scoring single to left field.

With a 10-0 lead, Montverde just had to keep Trinity Catholic off the scoreboard to invoke the mercy rule and Ava Penkal did just that by inducing a strikeout, popout and groundout to cap off the win.

For Griffis, she is hoping this win serves as a launching pad for the weekend as Montverde will travel to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to play in the Southern Warrior Classic. The tournament will feature more than 80 teams from over 15 states.

“I gave them spring break off and this was the first game back. This was our get ready game and it was good to perform like we did and gain some confidence. Hopefully, this carries over into the weekend as we compete against some top teams,” Griffis said.

The offensive attack for Montverde was a team effort as eight different players had at least one hit. The standouts for the Eagles offense were Taboas (three hits and two runs), Jimenez (two hits, four stolen bases and two runs), Spinogatti (two hits, two runs and a two-run home run) and Reish (three hits, two runs batted in and a stolen base). Jimenez picked up the win with two scoreless innings and a strikeout.

It was a tough night in all phases of the game for head coach Mike Young and his Celtics.

“They got on us early and punched us in the mouth and we did not recover from that. Their pitchers did a great job of mixing pitches and keeping us off balance to where we could not string together any hits,” Young said.

Despite the loss, Young is confident his team will recover quickly and put the loss behind them.

“We are a program that is still being built and when you face a good team like that you can’t give them opportunities. We have Dunnellon tomorrow and I’m expecting the team to bounce back, just have to move on to the next game,” Young said.

Casas Garcia, Simms and Fogelman each collected a hit and Libby took the loss over six innings of work with six earned runs allowed and three strikeouts.

Montverde returns to the diamond on Friday at 10 a.m. when they face Science Hill of Johnson City, Tennessee. Trinity Catholic will be back at home on Thursday night at 7 p.m. against Dunnellon.

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