Quick as a Flachs: Center fielder’s crucial hit helps Raiders fend off challenge from Wolves
QUINCY — The two-run lead vanished, and with it seemed to go with the momentum and the energy the Quincy Notre Dame softball team brought to The Backyard on Saturday.
Mackenzie Flachs brought it all back.
After Pleasant Hill’s Ava Wombles scored on Jade Peebles single in the top of the third inning to tie the game at 2, the Raiders put together a two-out rally as Laela Hernandez-Jones singled and Payton Stupavsky walked, bringing the left-handed swinging Flachs to the plate.
On the first pitch, Flachs doubled to left field, scoring Hernandez-Jones and putting two runners in scoring position. Caitlin Bunte followed with a two-run double and the Raiders rode the momentum to an 11-2 victory and a sweep of its two games in the QND Slam.
QND beat Pittsfield 13-5 behind three hits from Abbey Schreacke and two doubles and three RBIs from Payton Stupavsky.
“I’ve struggled with keeping my hands back more,” Flachs said. “I just went up there confident and kept my hands back and made sure I was focused in on that. It just led to greater things.”
The dugout erupted as Flachs safely rolled into second base.
“Insane,” Bunte said. “It lit a fire in us.”
QND coach Eric Orne sensed it.
“That kept us moving forward,” Orne said.
It signified the Raiders (20-3) have championship tenacity.
“It’s a revenge game, and it gives us a lot more confidence going into the postseason,” QND senior first baseman Addi Zanger said, referencing last season’s 11-1 loss to Pleasant Hill. “Something we didn’t have last year we do have this year in our players and our overall team mentality.”
Is that a little more heart? A little more grit? A little more experience?
“We’ve gotten a lot tougher,” Zanger said. “We’ve lost a couple times, and as sucky as that is, it teaches us and we learn from it and we get tougher from it. We have a lot more togetherness, which is super important.”
It resonated against a high-quality opponent.
QND led 2-0 going to the third inning when Pleasant Hill when Wombles singled with one out, moved to second, stole third and scored on Peebles’ infield single. Peebles stole second and scored on Kali VanStrien’s single to center field to tie the game at 2.
The Raiders remained confident they could hit Wolves starter McKinley Lowe.
“We all went in the dugout and we were like, ‘We’ve seen her. We know what she’s got. We can do this,’” Bunte said. “We had to attack. It was important we were all recognizing what she was throwing and how we could get something going.”
In the top of the fourth, Lowe was hit on the left wrist with a pitch and stayed in the game. However, Lowe walked Brooke Boden to open the fourth and threw a first-pitch ball to Alyssa Ley before being pulled from the game.
“We’re certainly saying a lot of prayers that she’s OK,” Orne said.
Wombles entered to pitch and the Raiders took advantage, scoring six times with Zanger’s two-run single kickstarting the binge.
That came on the heels of Zanger starting a double play in the top of the inning. Two more defensive gems happened in the top of the fifth with Ley making a diving stop of a grounder at second base and shortstop Abbey Schreacke throwing out a runner from deep in the hole.
“We play as a team all-around, offensively and defensively,” Flachs said. “That showed today. That’s one of the key aspects we need to make it farther in the postseason.”
After committing six errors in a 13-5 victory against Pittsfield, the Raiders needed a better defensive showing.
“There was a little coaching moment where I made sure they knew we had to play better,” Orne said. “Then we made two of the better plays we’ve made all year at the end of this game.”
That’s the toughness Zanger sees.
“It was just trusting each other and sticking together,” Zanger said. “We had a rough couple of innings in the first game and sort of being able to bounce back and being like, ‘Hey, we can do this,’ is such a huge thing.”
Heading into the final week of the regular season, Orne has high hopes.
“I like what we’re doing,” Orne said. “We’re certainly in a better groove than we were at this point last year. We’re making strides to be better and be a strong team.”
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