Lexie Handley didn’t need a lot of extra help Wednesday, but her St. Vincent-St. Mary softball teammates provided it anyway.
Two six-run innings was more than enough and Handley proved to be too much for visiting Norton in a 12-0 victory in a Fairless Division II sectional semifinal at Patterson Park.
Just one week earlier, Handley fired her first career no-hitter in a 5-0 win over Firestone.
She did it again Wednesday, allowing no hits against the Panthers.
“Today was a good day,” said Handley, a 6-foot-1 freshman left-hander. “We were hitting the ball a lot. My team did a really good job and my coaches were calling the right pitches. My pitches were just hitting their spots today and that’s always a good thing.”
She only had to go five innings this time, as the Fighting Irish prevailed in 4½ innings because of the mercy rule.
Norton (9-13) only put two balls in play as Handley (7-2) struck out 13. She issued three walks.
As a result, St. V-M (12-7) advances to another big game today. The Irish will play a 3 p.m. sectional final at Northwest.
Against Norton, a six-run second inning ensured the Irish would not have to sweat the rest of the way. Handley actually got the first RBI, on a bases-loaded walk.
Sophomore Bailey Steadman then smacked a single to left that was misplayed, and she reached third as three more runs came in for a 4-0 lead.
Freshman catcher Bekka Mayle followed with a smash down the left-field line that rolled all the way to the 252-foot chain-link fence for a home run to make it 6-0.
Mayle, Handley’s longtime battery mate, also performed flawlessly behind the plate.
“I’ve been catching her since I was in second grade.” said Mayle, “so it’s like really great to have that kind of chemistry.”
Mayle reached base in all three at-bats. She walked in the first and doubled and scored in the six-run fourth, along with the two-run homer.
“As soon as I hit it, it felt great on the bat and I just sprinted all the way,” she said.
Steadman’s two-run homer to the right-center gap was the big blow in the fourth, which also included hits by Handley and sophomore Courtney Johnson and an RBI groundout by senior Katie Gilbride.
Norton coach Dick Castilow said early fielding miscues contributed to his team’s downfall.
“We let two singles be a double and a triple,” he said. “Can’t give people extra bases. That was kind of our undoing and it just kind of steamrolled from there.
“Can’t make mistakes against a good pitcher, you only put the ball in play twice against. She did an excellent job. She had a great curveball, kept us off balance.”
Norton freshman Selena Rodriguez furnished the biggest challenge to Handley’s dominance. She walked twice, fouling off multiple pitches in 10- and eight-pitch at-bats.
The Irish made the most of their seven hits and have won 11 out of 13 since an 0-5 start.
“The six-run inning kind of took the game over, and at that point we were kind of in cruise mode,” said St. V-M coach Tony Ninni. “[Handley] pitched a very, very good game again. She’s doing well.”
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