HARWICH – Even though she’s only in eighth grade, Alana Lojko knew there was a good chance she would have the opportunity to pitch for Monomoy Regional High School’s varsity softball team this spring.
She just had no idea she would pitch in every game.
“I thought I would get breaks some games,” said Lojko. “I didn’t necessarily expect to pitch every single inning.”
The right-handed pitcher from Dennis Port tossed another complete game Monday afternoon after Monomoy’s offense built a lopsided lead over Sandwich early behind a 12-run second inning. The Sharks never looked back, holding on for a 19-11 victory to improve to 7-0 on the season.
“I love playing against Jean because I know her team is going to hit and we’re going to hit,” Monomoy coach Stacy Yarnall said, referencing Sandwich coach Jean Russell. “We had a good run and kept the momentum going.”
Although Lojko eventually settled into the game and earned the win, it wasn’t entirely smooth sailing from the start. The visitors tagged Monomoy’s new pitcher for two runs in the first and four more in the second to garner a 6-2 lead as the Sharks took the plate in the bottom of the second inning.
That’s the frame Monomoy scored 12 runs after sending 17 batters to the plate. The lengthy rally eventually ended after Courtney Kelley flew out to left field for the final out of the inning, but by that point the damage had already been done and Monomoy had built a 14-6 lead.
When asked about the team’s perfect 7-0 start, Yarnall quickly said there’s been one constant throughout the team’s undefeated streak.
“Our offense. Swinging the bats,” the coach said. “We face some pretty fast pitchers and just being in there and not being intimidated by it. A lot of the girls play summer ball, so they’ve seen it, but I think they really just want to play. They want to go in and hit the ball. They have great team chemistry — they have all played together for years —that helps, too.”
On Monday, catcher AJ Gates finished 3 for 4, while Maddie Crossen went 2 for 4 and Lilly Furman went 1 for 2 with a triple and an RBI. It helped the team’s leadoff batter, Michaela Crossen, a junior left fielder, reached base in each of her five trips to the plate. She finished 2 for 2 with two hits in addition to reaching base on an error and two walks.
After the game, Crossen, a Harwich resident, marveled at the way Lojko has performed in the pitcher’s circle.
“It’s crazy. I don’t know how she does it,” she said.
Aside from the fact she’s only in eighth grade, Lojko’s debut-season success has been impressive given the fact she replaced Mollie Charest, a Chatham native now pitching for Manhattan College, an NCAA Division I program.
There have been ups and downs for the righty, though Lojko said she’s followed Yarnall’s guidance and has tried her best to throw strikes while trusting her defense.
“Coach always just reminds me that I have the players in the field to back me up,” the pitcher said. “So, I just count on them.”
“It’s a lot different — we have a lot more action in the field,” said Michaela Crossen. “We’re really just expecting anything and that’s helped us a lot.”
Yarnall said Monday’s game against the Blue Knights was the latest example of Lojko’s ability to throw strikes.
“Today was really good — getting it over the plate, letting them hit it and trusting her defense,” the coach said. “She’s done an excellent job. And for just being in eighth grade, she’s really improved a lot.”
As much as the Sharks are hoping they’ll finish the regular season undefeated, that’s not the only goal the team possesses. After missing out on the entire 2020 season due to COVID-19, the team is looking forward to the postseason and is hopeful for a deep run through the state tournament.
“I think that’s going to be really great to play the bigger teams off-Cape because we’ve been doing so well against the Cape schools,” Michaela Crossen said. “Playing those bigger schools has really helped us improve in past years.”
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