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Connellsville beats Franklin Regional in softball opener

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Lori Padilla | for the Daily Courier
Connellsville's Marissa Keffer slides home with a run while Franklin Regional catcher Kaelin Jackson blocks a throw to the plate Thursday, April 4, 2013, in Trotter.

Because of poor field conditions at Connellsville High School, the game was played at a junior high field in Trotter.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013, 8:12 p.m.

Although the Connellsville softball team had not played a game prior to Thursday, the Falcons showed few signs of nerves or rust in their season opener against visiting Franklin Regional.

Connellsville built a 4-0 lead early then rallied late to pull out a 5-4 victory over the Panthers in Section 1-AAAA.

“We were pretty solid defensively, and we did a nice job of getting on base,” Connellsville coach Tom Nickelson said. “We did what we had to do to score, and that's the way I like it.”

The Falcons manufactured two runs in the first. Alyssa Orndorff and Jackie Cramer opened with back-to-back singles. Kara Butler followed with a sacrifice fly, and Rachel Oplinger drove in a run with a groundout. In the third, Marissa Keffer tripled and scored on an RBI groundout by Cramer. Then in the fourth, Kelsi Burkholder tripled and scored on a single by Amanda DeWitt.

The Falcons (1-0, 1-0) were cruising, but Franklin Regional came alive in the sixth inning, pounding out six hits and scoring four runs to tie the game. Courtney Roperti got the rally started with a triple, and she scored on a single by Kaelin Jackson. Taylor Nonningberg singled and scored on a base hit by Nicole Berardinelli. Shannon Patberg delivered an RBI triple before Angela Buccilli tied the game with a two-out run-scoring single.

Connellsville pitcher Emily Keslar started the game and threw five solid innings before being lifted in the sixth. Cramer came on in relief and gave up the tying single. However, she kept the Panthers (3-2, 1-1) from taking the lead as she pitched a scoreless seventh to get the win.

Cramer was in line for the victory thanks to a nice response by the Falcons in their half of the sixth. Connellsville quickly regained the lead as freshman Jessica Secrest delivered a clutch two-out run-scoring single against Panthers pitcher Dana Bacharach.

“We battled back and got a key hit, and, hopefully, we can do that the rest of the season,” Nickelson said, noting that he also was pleased with the performances of both of his sophomore pitchers. “I'm happy we got the win, and, hopefully, we can get some more.”

For Franklin Regional, a poor start proved costly.

“We did come back, but obviously it wasn't enough,” said Franklin Regional coach Jim Armstrong. “We started lethargic the first few innings, and I'm not real happy about it. But they hit the ball, and they were better than us today.”

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