Gritty Riders eke out softball tourney win over defending state champ Polytech

WOODSIDE — The dirt that covered the front of Rosa’lynn Burton’s jersey and the beads of sweat on her face told the tale of what the winning ingredients were for Caesar Rodney High’s softball team.

It was pure hustle and desire that pushed the ninth-seeded Riders to a 4-3 victory over No. 8-seed and defending state champion Polytech in the opening round of the DIAA softball state tournament on Saturday.

CR (14-5 overall) was able to effectively use its bunting game along with aggressiveness on the base paths to rally for four runs over the final three innings to overcome a 2-0 deficit.

The late rally helped the Riders advance as they will travel to face top-seeded Caravel in the quarterfinals at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

“It was all about sliding and diving – anything you could do to get a run,” said Burton, who scored a pair of runs, including the go-ahead run, for CR.

“I love it,” she added. “It’s always hard against Polytech because they have power hitters and they’ve got good pitching. So to beat somebody like them who won the state championship last year is tough. You’ve got to bring your ‘A-game’ every time.”

The Riders went into attack mode in the top of the fifth inning against Polytech, which finished its season 13-6.

With one out and runners on second and third base, Burton slapped a run-scoring single to center that scored Jordan Moseley to cut the Panthers’ lead to 2-1.

Stephanie Horne scored the tying run when she came home on an error with two outs before Burton gave the Riders the lead when she darted home on a Polytech throwing error.

“Our girls were really just fearless,” said Skye Boris, CR’s first-year coach. “They went up there every pitch and every play and just gave it their all.

“We’re the type of team that we’ve had to come back from behind a lot, so it’s nothing unusual. We like to make things exciting and we definitely did that [Saturday]. I couldn’t be more proud.”

The Riders tacked on an insurance run in the seventh when Burton scored on a fielder’s choice to third. Burton was able to beat out Hayley DiCarlantonio’s throw to the plate.

It turned out to be an important run for CR.

That’s because Polytech scored a run in the seventh when Hayley Friess scored when Brianna Stevenson got caught in a rundown. Carissa DiCarlantonio followed with a two-out double down the right-field line before Alyssa Ball got a strikeout to end the game.

“It’s always a team effort but it’s always good when you’re pitching bad to know that you have your team behind you,” Ball said, “So I felt really supported which then helped me pitch better.

“We want to do it for our seniors and ourselves and our new coaching staff. Every win you get is just so exciting and brings the team closer together.”

Polytech coach Jenn Bradshaw said it was CR’s aggressiveness that proved to be the difference. The Riders also defeated Polytech 4-1 in the regular season on April 26.

“We did a good job of putting runners on base and putting pressure on them in every inning on offense,” Bradshaw said. “They did a good job on offense as well and forced some errors and their short game was on and they were really using that effectively.

“We did have some errors [five] in the field and when you have a team like that that can play the short game effectively it puts a lot of pressure on defense.”

Amanda Waishes knocked in a run with a single in the first and Friess led off the second with a solo home run for the Panthers, who stranded 12 runners on base. Whitney DeMora and Jessica Kwasnieski both had three hits for Polytech.

Boris said that CR’s win over Polytech in the regular season was an important one. Lauren Polinski had three hits and Burton, Ball and Kaylie Gros each had a pair of hits apiece for the Riders.

“It definitely gave us more confidence,” she said. “[Taylor Pechin is] an awesome pitcher and Whitney DeMora and Morgan Dodge, all around, they can really hit the ball, so we really came into this with the same kind of game plan as we did the last time we played them and went at it.

“We just wanted to be aggressive and go hard and go at this with all we had.”

Now, as far as Burton is concerned, it’s all up to the washing machine to get her ready for the next game.

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