Total team effort lifts Notre Dame softball team to MCT championship
For 6-2/3 innings, Rylee Michalak made things easy for her fielders. But when she needed them most, they came through brilliantly.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, and Notre Dame, Lawrenceville holding a 2-0 lead in the May 16 Mercer County Tournament softball final, Robbinsville had girls on second and third when Haley Krebs singled to center.
One runner scored and the second was being waved home by her coach. But Helen Woloshyn uncorked a bullet to catcher Emily Brown, who made the tag to clinch the Irish’s first county title since 2015 (ND won the CVC tournament, held in lieu of the MCT, in 2021).
“I saw her go and I knew Helen and Emily were going to shut it down,” Michalak said. “It was a dime. Beautiful throw. Helen finally got to show off her arm and how well she does under pressure.”
As did Brown, who had teamed with Michalak for a big out earlier in the contest.
“Emily is an unsung hero game after game,” Michalak said. “She deserves so much recognition for how hard she works calling pitches, blocking and stepping up to get those outs. She didn’t let the heat of the moment rattle her. It was a phenomenal play.”
It capped another Michalak classic, as the tournament’s MVP fired a four-hitter with 14 strikeouts.
“I’m honored to have been chosen MVP, but every girl on that field played a part in this accomplishment,” Michalak said. “I wouldn’t have had that win any other way. All of us had our moment to make an impact.”
Emma Marchese’s moment came in the second inning when she launched a solo home run – her sixth of the year.
“Her bat makes such a difference in our lineup,” Michalak said. “She’s played a crucial part in our big wins. She stays calm and collected in tight games and finds a way to put the ball in play in big moments.”
As does sophomore Madelena Creo, who singled home Woloshyn in the sixth for a necessary insurance run.
“She’s insanely clutch!” Michalak said. “I’m so proud of how much she’s continuing to grow. She steps up like no other in moments when she’s needed. Madelena knew we needed an insurance run going into the seventh and found a way to make it happen.”
Michalak actually defines clutch, as she wriggled out of several two-out jams against a potent Ravens offense.
“Getting thrown into pressure situations … has taught me how to clear my head and trust my abilities,” the junior hurler said. “When I got into those jams, I took a second to get my thoughts together, then get the last out.”
It all added up to sweet retribution for the Irish, who lost last year’s final to Steinert and had dropped four straight MCT games to Robbinsville.
“There is no better feeling,” Michalak said. “We can’t stop smiling. Even with how well we’ve been doing this season, we still felt like last year’s loss was hanging over us. So, we’re extra proud about the win.”