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There’s a good chance that Chopticon’s Jayci Cristaudo was willing to deal with her wet clothes and hair after hitting her first varsity home run.
The homer keyed the Braves to an 8-3 win over host Patuxent on Friday.
Cristaudo, who has a team-high 31 hits and 23 runs scored this season, now has a ‘1’ in the home run column after clubbing a three-run shot over the center field fence in the third inning.
It was the sophomore’s first over-the-fence round-tripper of her career after hitting a couple of in-the park jobs and hitting the fence on a few others.
“I didn’t even think it was going over,” the sophomore said of the hit, which came on a no balls, 2 strikes count. “I just felt it off my bat and then I was just running.”
The ball was retrieved and handed to Cristaudo, who later had to pay a small price for her hit as she was doused with a glass of water during a postgame interview.
The homer put Chopticon ahead 7-0 and it went on to win its seventh straight game.
“I think there’s a lot of good team chemistry, they work hard in practice and play well in games,” Chopticon head coach Kevin Cioppa said, “and we have a real good group of girls who are playing very well.”
Chopticon was 5 for 15 with runs in scoring position, while the Panthers were 4 for 10.
“We just have a lot of confidence,” Cristaudo said. “Our defense has come a long way. It was struggling in the beginning, but we got it together.”
Kelly Sothoron went the distance for the Braves (11-5, 7-2 SMAC) and allowed seven hits and struck out five.
“I knew they were a very good hitting team so throwing strikes was very valuable,” said Sothoron, who never threw more than 19 pitches in an inning. “[I was throwing] mainly fastballs and changeups and hitting my spots, but I’m getting back to my dropball, finally.”
The senior who has an ERA of 1.42 on the year threw 67 of her 92 pitches for strikes and threw a first-pitch strike to 21 of 29 batters to improve to 10-1 on the season.
“If you start off getting ahead in the count, that’s really going to help you and that's one of the things Kelly does so well,” Cioppa said. “She’s pitched well all year and done a great job.”
Sothoron has also been pitching with a broken bone in her pitching wrist ever since injuring it in frustration during a 12-0, five-inning nonconference loss to Northern on March 23. The Braves will face the Patriots again at 4:30 p.m. today.
“I just got really mad at myself and my temper got the best of me,” Sothoron said of the injury, which was originally diagnosed as a bruise but was changed to a break and is medically cleared to play. “It doesn't necessarily hurt, it’s just an annoyance that’s constantly there.”
Chopticon had a huge opportunity to strike in the top of the first when it loaded the bases with one out, but Patuxent pitcher Melissa Morlock struck out the next two hitters on six total pitches to end the threat.
“One of the things we talk about a lot is resilience,” Cioppa said, “and if something doesn’t go right early in a game, you bounce back and do it the inning after that.”
The Braves did just that by pushing across four runs. Courtney Taft came in to pinch-hit and promptly delivered a two-run single. Cristaudo added a run-scoring single and Sothoron drove in the fourth run of the inning on a double to right.
Chopticon scored its final run in the fifth when Sothoron singled with two outs, went to third on an error and scored on a passed ball.
“I knew Chopticon was going to be a tough game because they have been playing so well lately,” Patuxent head coach Jenn Bruno said. “They hit and hit well. Defensively, we could have made a few plays that would have reduced some of the scoring but overall, they hit. We have not been hitting consistently all season long but we have the potential to hit very well top to bottom.”
Patuxent scored single runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings. Erika Bryant drove in two of the runs and freshman Mary Lee lined a run-scoring single.
The top three hitters for the Braves Cristaudo, Taft and Sothoron was a combined 7 for 13 with six RBIs and three runs scored.
“They all hit very well,” Cioppa said of the trio. “It was great seeing Jayci get a home run and the rest of them did a good job of getting hits for us and they’ve been doing well all season long.”
Morlock started for the Panthers (6-7, 5-4) but lasted just 2 2/3 innings before giving way to Kayla Alderman. Alderman one run on three hits and threw 46 of her 63 pitches for strikes.
“Kayla did an amazing job in relief and seemed to keep them uncomfortable in the box,” Bruno said. “When we play tougher teams and give up runs, we have to be able to hit together and give the pitchers support.”
Chopticon 8, Patuxent 3
Chopticon 043 010 0 — 8 12 2
Patuxent 000 110 1 — 3 7 4
WP Sothoron, LP Morlock
Extra-base hits: 2B Sothoron (C), Norton (C); 3B Nava (P), Ludke (P); HR Cristaudo (C)