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posted: 5/6/2010 12:01 AM

St. Francis keeps Montini within reach in SCC Blue

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St. Francis isn't handing over its conference championship without putting its two cents in first.

Emily Karpinski homered to back Taylor Ronchetto's strong pitching, and the Spartans beat Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division leader Montini 5-1 on Wednesday in Wheaton.

Defending Suburban Catholic Conference champ St. Francis (17-9, 8-4) pulled into a tie with Marian Central a game behind Montini (12-14, 9-3) with four conference games left. Rosary is two games off the pace.

"We needed to win this game," Karpinski said. "We hit our rough patch during the season, but we're picking up momentum toward the end."

St. Francis has enjoyed a strong bounce-back week. On Monday the Spartans hammered Immaculate Conception 10-1, snapping the Knights' 11-game winning streak.

"We had a tough week last week; we ended the week with three losses," Spartans coach Ralph Remus said, "and we really did not play well. Monday we started what we call our second season. They were awesome on Monday and they were awesome today."

St. Francis grabbed a quick 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first, with only one hit. Two hit batters, a walk and an error led to the first run. Karpinski singled in Blaine Carragher to make it 2-0 and a third scored on Kelcey Fabianski's RBI groundout.

"We weren't ready to play in the first inning," Montini coach Richie Costante said, "and I'll take all the blame for that. We rushed over here, construction and everything and we weren't ready to play."

Bri Pasquale singled to start the St. Francis third, and Karpinski drilled an 0-1 offering over the fence in right-center to push the lead to 5-0.

Ronchetto, who lost to Montini 6-4 exactly a month prior to Wednesday, was far stingier the second time around. She allowed just 2 hits, giving up Montini's only run in the fourth. Ronchetto worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in that inning with back-to-back strikeouts, and finished with 7 punchouts.

"My coach had me work on my changeup because I've been really struggling. I threw, like, 12 changeups last game and didn't throw one for a strike," Ronchetto said. "I worked on it a lot yesterday and it helped out. Their two big hitters (Lara) Mangialardi and (Tori) Shipbaugh, they're the ones that hurt me last game (with homers). I tried to keep it out of the zone against them."

St. Francis committed one error behind her, and that was erased when Spartans catcher Carragher picked off the runner at first.

"We made plays, we got clutch hits," Remus said, "and we told the girls that's what we expect out of them. We expect a lot out of them because they're talented."

Kaitlin Maggiore doubled leading off the Montini fourth and scored the Broncos' lone run on a Tracy Bonnacorsi single. Montini plays at Rosary today.

"First game Taylor was belt high, and we hit her," Costante said. "This game she kept her pitches low. She pitched a great game. She hit all of her spots."