DALE CITY — When Ashley Eisenman came to bat with one out and nobody on in the 10th inning at Gar-Field Saturday afternoon, Bishop O’Connell softball coach Tommy Orndorff wasn’t thinking about her .076 batting average.
Despite what the numbers told him, Orndorff knew what Eisenman was capable of doing in clutch situations. The Knights’ junior stepped into the batter’s box with only one hit on her 2002 res-ume, but that hit was a game-winning two-run single that gave O’Connell a dramatic Easter Tournament victory over Thomas Stone.
So he wasn’t at all surprised when Eisenman, the Knights’ No. 9 hitter, turned on a 2-1 fastball from Gar-Field ace Kelly Brown and launched it over the fence in right-center field to cap a thrilling 3-2 win over the Indians.
“We’re 7-1 and Ashley’s won two of those games for us,” Orndorff said. “She doesn’t have a lot of hits, but she can swing the bat. She would bat number four for most teams.”
The player occupying the Knights’ No. 4 spot, junior Nicole Simmons, also homered on Saturday. She followed catcher Andi Alexander’s leadoff double with a two-run, two-out blast in the first inning.
The bookend game-opening and game-winning blasts were the first two homers of the season for the Knights, who are seeking their 10th consecutive 20-win season this spring.
“I’ve told our kids all year long that the thing that separates us from most teams is that we don’t have any automatic outs,” Orndorff said. “We have good players throughout the lineup.”
The Knights’ balanced batting order combined for seven hits, but all of their runs were the result of two pitches. Brown, a product of Orndorff’s legendary Shamrocks travel team program, shut O’Connell out for eight consecutive innings during a 10-strikeout performance before Eisenman broke a 2-2 tie in the 10th.
“We know what we’re going up against when we face her,” Orndorff said.
The Indians knew what they were facing as well. Since Orndorff took over the O’Connell program in 1986, the Knights have gone 358-40 overall. They have never lost more than five games in a season and, during a landmark stretch between 1995-1999, O’Connell put together a pair of 46-game winning streaks.
That legacy is the main reason Gar-Field coach Mike McDonald invited the Knights to Dale City.
“We’ve got some youngsters. We’ve got some growing to do, but playing O’Connell is going to help us get where we want to go,” McDonald said.
The Indians’ ultimate destination is a return trip to the Group AAA state tournament and they plan to get there with two freshmen and a pair of sophomores in the starting lineup.
The “youngsters” showed that they are ready for the challenge on Saturday.
Sophomore third baseman Eboney Cowan walked and scored on junior Sam Posey’s line drive single in the fourth inning and sophomore shortstop Katy Foster, who had six assists, beat out an infield single in the fifth to set up the game-tying rally.
Freshman second baseman Sarah Malene had five assists and four put outs, but it was her patience at the plate that enabled Gar-Field (5-3) to rally from a 2-0 deficit.
Malene drew a bases-loaded walk that brought Foster home with the tying run before Knights sophomore pitcher Cara L’Etoile worked out the jam. L’Etoile, the primary hurler on last year’s 27-4 squad, tossed a three-hitter and did not allow a base runner over the final five innings.
“We got down early again and the kids clawed their way back,” McDonald said. “We had opportunities to pull it out. It just didn’t happen.”
O’CONNELL 3, GAR-FIELD 2
O’Connell 200 000 000 1 — 3 7 0
Gar-Field 000 011 000 0 — 2 3 0
Brown and Posey; L’Etoile and Alexander. W — L’Etoile. L — Brown.