It would be easy to say that Carlie Sammon's bat was a big reason that the Assumption softball team was able to defeat Beckman Catholic in a Class 3A regional semifinal on Friday night.
But Sammon's coach, Ron Ferrill, wanted to talk about the excellent defense played by the Knights sophomore at third base as a key reason Assumption knocked off Beckman, 6-2, at the St. Vincent Athletic Center.
The Knights (35-3-1) will host Mount Vernon (23-17) on Monday at 7 p.m. for the regional title and the right to advance to the state quarterfinals.
True, Sammon missed a home run by about a foot and wound up driving in three runs during the contest to help back pitcher Hannah Kelley's effort. But what pleased Ferrill was the quick reactions by Sammon on defense that left Beckman with hardly any room to breathe offensively on the infield.
"Her defense at third base was unreal," Ferrill said. "Carlie really showed her range coming across the field and just making great plays."
Sammon recorded five assists during the contest, including three grounders that she cut off before they could reach the gap between second and third base. Two of the other putouts were swinging bunts that were short up the third-base line that Sammon reacted to quick enough to throw out the runners.
Sammon is part of a defense with first baseman Hannah Wislander, starting pitcher Hannah Kelley and catcher Anna Wohlers that leaves opponents with little chance of successfully get an infield hit through slap hitting or bunting.
In addition to her five innings of one-hit ball, Kelley also had three assists herself and showed why Ferrill called Kelley "the best fielding pitcher in the state."
So if Knights' opponents are thinking of getting any kind of cheap hits on the infield, Sammon says forget it.
"We worked really hard the last few practices on slap-hitting defense and making plays near the lines," Sammon said. "Everyone just plays really solid defense."
While Sammon's glove work impressed her coach, her blast in the first inning had the Assumption fans on their feet. With two outs and Olivia Wardlow on third and Lea Nelson on second, Sammon smashed a delivery from Beckman pitcher Sydney Steffen high into left-center field.
The ball landed on a fly at the bottom of the fence. While it did not send Sammon into a home-run trot, the double did chase home Wardlow and Nelson to give the hosts a 2-0 lead and help get things going.
"It was a home run on every other field in the state except our field," Ferrill said with a chuckle. "We discussed with her during pregame about being a situational hitter with the wind blowing out and about when it was safe to hit a line drive and when it was safe to put one up in the air. In that case, she did just that, and it was a huge hit and got us going."
Sammon said she was not terribly worried if the ball made it over the fence. She has six home runs this season.
"I thought (the ball) had a chance, but I was just looking score people," Sammon said of her bomb. "We just had to lay off (Steffen's) rise balls and hit situationally. We worked in the cage laying off the rise balls and taking good at-bats."
The Knights essentially put the game away in the third inning when Nicole Yoder contributed an RBI single and Paige Madden chipped in an RBI groundout. The highlight of the three-run inning was Olivia Allen's blistering double into right-center field that plated Yoder to make it 5-0.
Sammon finished the scoring off in the fourth when her RBI single sent home courtesy runner Eryn Ackerman to make it 6-2.
The only hit Kelley allowed was a two-run single by Beckman freshman Jadyn Welling in the fourth inning. Allie Timmons struck out three working the sixth and seventh innings for the winners.