PACIFICA — With their playoff fate hanging in the balance, Carrie McKewan and the St. Ignatius softball team played perhaps their best game of the season.
McKewan had 11 strikeouts and allowed just two hits in going the distance for the 13th time this season, and the Wildcats earned a critical 7-0 win over rival Sacred Heart Cathedral on Tuesday at Fairmont Field.
St. Ignatius improved to 10-11 overall and 3-4 in the West Catholic Athletic League, coming one step closer to the .500 mark that is required for eligibility in the Central Coast Section playoffs.
“Our backs were against the wall, but I believed in these girls to step up and get it done,” Wildcats coach Paul Webb said. “This was our time to respond.”
Was it ever. Webb had tried everything in the last couple of weeks to get his players going, from offering delectable food bags to making them run more to threatening to bring up junior varsity players.
Nothing worked until Webb told his players the season was all on them.
“I put it on the ladies for them to grow, and today they grew,” Webb said. “I was looking for something to spark inside of them. I wanted them to fight for something because I knew they had it in them.”
Especially McKewan, who was simply masterful. The senior right-hander needed just 75 pitches to go the distance, consistently baffling the SHC (10-10, 3-4) hitters with a wicked riseball that had just as much life in the seventh inning as it did in the first.
“If my riseball is working, that’s the sign of a good day,” McKewan said. “This is definitely one of my best games of the season, and the difference was I just worked on focusing extra hard on every pitch.”
McKewan’s teammates made her job easier by giving her an early lead. The Wildcats went up 1-0 in the second on a Jacqueline Boland home run, then broke the game open with a five-run third, highlighted by four consecutive run-scoring hits with two outs. What made the two-out uprising all the more enjoyable for Webb was the fact that it was started by Sarah Jensen and Nicole Barbieri, the Nos. 8-9 hitters in the lineup.
“When Sarah and Nicole got those hits, it was like Jesus coming right into my tummy,” Webb said. “It was such a great feeling because we’ve had trouble getting hits from the bottom of the order.”
SI leadoff hitter Tara Fallahee had a game-high three hits. Julia Gallegos and Siobhan Murphy had the only hits for the Irish, which beat SI 4-3 in the teams’ first meeting on March 12.
“It all starts with pitching, and Carrie had it working today,” Webb said. “Her rise has been flat lately, but today it was damn good. When she gets the lead, she’s lights-out.”