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ArlingtonO'Connell back in action, tops McLean

O’Connell back in action, tops McLean

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After more than two weeks without games because of spring break and weather issues, the Bishop O’Connell Knights finally resumed their girls softball campaign by winning two of three games in recent days.

The high-school team (11-1) defeated Good Counsel, 12-4, and the McLean Highlanders, 5-2, and lost to St. John’s, 21-16.

The April 30 road win over McLean was non-league action, with the other two  against Washington Catholic Athletic Conference private-school opponents.

What had been an annual rivalry game since 2009 against McLean resumed this season after a two-year break because of the pandemic. McLean won the last two contests in 2019 (4-3) and 2018 (4-0) between perennial top private- and public-school teams in Northern Virginia.


“That game is always a really good matchup, and we always look forward to playing. We have missed it very much the last two years,” O’Connell coach Suzy Willemssen said. “It’s always so fun playing against McLean and this game gets us better.”

O’Connell trailed 1-0 until No. 8 batter Emma Prykanowski belted a two-run homer to left center to give the Knights a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning.

“Emma hit the ball hard there, and she came through in a big way,” Willemssen said.

O’Connell took a 3-1 lead in the sixth on Sara Rollins’ sacrifice fly to score Sophia Taliaferro, who had singled. In the seventh, the Knights scored two more on an RBI double by starting pitcher Katie Kutz and an RBI groundout by Ari Clark. O’Connell had seven hits, two by Kutz. Groome, Alyssa Dichard and Sophia Anderson also had hits.

On the mound, Kutz, has committed to play in college at Oklahoma State University, throw a four-hitter with 12 strikeouts and one earned run allowed.

“Katie has been throwing very well,” Willemssen said. “She brings it and her ball has movement.”

Added Kutz: “It was the first time I have played in this game, and it was a lot of fun. We really picked up our energy late in the game. Both teams are very good.”

McLean entered the contest tied for first in the Liberty District and O’Connell was ahead in the WCAC standings.

Willemssen had only coached in the rivalry one time, in 2019, before this season. She became O’Connell’s coach after longtime coach Tommy Orndorff retired after the 2018 campaign.

“I had always heard about this game and how well McLean always plays,” Willemssen said. “Then I saw it first-hand in 2019, when they were making all kinds of great plays against us.”

Kutz did not pitch in the loss to St. John’s the day before, as the team scored 18 first-inning runs with the help of 11 walks.

Against St. John’s, Dichard doubled and tripled and had five RBI. Anderson had a hit and four RBI, and Groome had two hits with a double and two RBI. O’Connell had 15 hits, but could not overcome that first inning, when the teams combined for 30 runs in the 70-minute frame.

“Our pitcher settled down after the first hitting, but we did not hit enough and we got beat,” Willemssen said.

Against Good Counsel, Kutz threw a seven-hitter and struck out 14 with no walks. She threw 91 pitches, 71 for strikes. Kutz also homered in the win, as did Groome, who had two hits and three RBI. Rollins tripled and Taliaferro had four hits.

NOTES: Overall, O’Connell holds a 7-5 lead in the series against McLean, winning the first two contests in 2009 and 2010. McLean’s first win was in 2011 . . . All of the contests have been played at McLean . . . The games often have been close, with four decided by one run. O’Connell won 1-0 during the 2017 season when the Knights finished 27-0. That slim margin of victory was O’Connell’s closest that season.

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