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Crusaders pass Sunset test 9-3

Jesuit knocks off second-place Sunset 9-3 and improves to 7-0 in league
by: JAIME VALDEZ, HOMER HITTER — Jesuit's Mary Claire Brenner is congratulated by teammate Robin Gawlista after hitting a home run in her team's 9-3 win over Sunset.

CEDAR MILL - With Paige Hall in a zone on the mound, it's been hard enough to get anything going against the Jesuit softball team.

And now that their bats are coming around, there might be no stopping the top-ranked Crusaders.

Jesuit widened its lead atop the Metro League by beating second-place Sunset 9-3 on Monday at Sunset High School to improve to 7-0 in league game (17-1 overall). Both of the Apollos' Metro losses have come against the Crusaders, but Monday's game was a little different than the first meeting when Jesuit had to rally in the seventh inning for a 2-1 win.

'We were struggling at the beginning of the Metro season, beating teams by a couple of runs,' said Jesuit center fielder Mary Claire Brenner. 'We were keeping it too close. We're definitely deep in hitters. Everyone one through nine can hit.'

And nearly every one of the Crusaders did Monday led by three hits by Brenner and two from her freshman sister Elizabeth Brenner and junior catcher Shikara Lowe.

'About the last week, we started hitting better,' said Lowe, who went 2 for 3 with a walk and three runs scored. 'It helps our confidence knowing someone behind us will pick it up if we don't get the job done.'

On a cold and damp afternoon, Jesuit's bats were red hot. The Crusaders scored three runs

in the first inning, one in the second and three more in the fifth capped by Mary Claire Brenner's drive over the right-center field fence for a 2-run homer and 7-0 lead.

'She had been pitching me outside and so I took it that way,' said Mary Claire Brenner of her fourth home run of the season. 'It felt really good.'

Mary Claire Brenner finished 3 for 4 with four RBIs and two runs. Elizabeth Brenner was 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs and two runs scored as the Crusaders' 2-3-4 hitters had seven of their 11 hits and scored seven of their nine runs.

'The bottom line is Jesuit was ready to hit off what they couldn't hit the first time,' Sunset coach Spencer Mills said. 'They're a smart, good-hitting team.'

For a team that starts seven sophomores, the Apollos haven't been too shabby themselves. Sunset, which was missing starting catcher Jessy Downey, dropped to 5-2 in league and 9-7 overall, but has been on a roll versus the rest of the Metro after a preseason schedule filled with the state's best teams.

'We put them in the fire hoping it would prepare us for the Metro League,' Mills said. 'I'm happy with how things are going and we'll build on it. They're competitors. We believe we can beat anybody.'

Jesuit may be the exception. The Crusaders jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first on Monday. With two outs, Lowe singled through the hole on the left side and took second on an error. Elizabeth Brenner knocked her in with a single up the middle and Mary Claire Brenner followed with a shot over the right fielder's head for an RBI double. Hall's bloop single into shallow right plated the elder Brenner and Jesuit had a quick 3-0 lead.

The Crusaders built on that in the second when Ali Junell walked, moved to second on Robin Gawlista's sacrifice bunt, to third on Sam Nelson's single and scored on Kelsey VandeBergh's groundout to make it 4-0.

Jesuit only widened the gap as Hall stymied the Apollos, limiting them to a single hit through four innings before Sunset got two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth. The Crusaders did more damage in the top of both innings and the Apollos never got closer than five runs.

Lowe led off the Jesuit fifth with a single and scored on Elizabeth Brenner's stand-up double down the left field line. Mary Claire Brenner followed with her first home run in league play for a 7-0 lead.

Sunset got on the board in the bottom of the inning. Sara DelBalzo led off with an infield single and was replaced by courtesy runner Angela Umscheid. After Sierra Anderson walked, Brittany Boyd's sacrifice bunt ended up scoring Umscheid when the ball was thrown out of play. Two outs later, Meghan Lyons hit a shot that careened off Hall for an RBI single that plated Anderson to make it 7-2.

Jesuit got both runs back in the sixth. VandeBergh led off with a double, Lowe walked

and both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch. VandeBergh scored on a groundout and Lowe later crossed home on an error for a 9-2 lead.

Sunset made one final threat in the sixth, loading the bases with no outs on Kristina Trindle's bunt single, Julia Johnson's walk and Amanda McCoy's hit by pitch. But Jesuit turned a double play as Trindle scored and Hall struck out the next batter then two of three in the seventh for seven in the game.

Pitcher Amanda Najdek started for Sunset and threw 4-2/3 innings before being relieved by Kelsi Ott. Trindle led the Apollos with two of their four hits.