AUBURN – With Thursday’s softball game on the line, junior pitcher Tori Hricko was asked to do something she’d never done before.

With the tying runs on base and no outs, Hricko went from a starter one day to Poland’s closer the next.

“Yesterday, we had kind of a tough game,” said Hricko, who started in a loss to Falmouth. “I just knew I had to get the job done, and I basically had to give it all I had.”

In her first ever relief appearance, Hricko struck out the first two and then escaped the jam with a ground-out. She then eluded a threat in the sixth and put St. Dom’s down easily in the seventh to seal a 6-4 win.

“I knew my daughter had run out of gas,” said Poland coach Dan Simpson, whose daughter Kristen started the game and went four-plus innings. “I could see the frustration on her face. I knew in that situation, Tori would throw strikes because she never walks anybody. She has a good curveball and change-up, which she used to strike out those two batters. To come in from second base like that, not having warmed up, you can’t say enough about her.”

Poland (4-6) escaped numerous St. Dom’s threats. The Saints (3-3) left 11 runners on base and ended an inning twice with the bases loaded.

St. Dom’s had the bases full in the third with no out, but Simpson produced a force out and two more infield outs. In the fifth, Mary Lewis walked and Kelsey Murphy followed with a double to make it 6-4. Erynne Landry singled and moved to second on a fielder’s choice, putting two runners in scoring position. That’s when Simpson went to Hricko. She’d never come on in relief at the varsity level but looked primed to shut the door on the Saints. With six straight strikes, she quickly seized command and preserved the lead.

“I got things going, and I kept doing what I could,” said Hricko. “I knew I could keep getting them out.”

In the sixth, Lyndsay Nance singled and Abby Gilbert walked to lead off. Hricko got the first out with a force at third. Then she got a strike out and a ground out to first before breezing through the seventh.

“We’ve lost the last five games,” said Hricko. “So it was a big win. We’ve been on a losing streak, and we just need to get pumped up again.”

Physical and mental errors played a key in both teams generating runs. Simpson scored on an error in the first, but the Saints took the lead in the bottom of the inning when Michaela Kelly scored on a wild pitch, and Lewis scored on a fielder’s choice when the play went to the plate with two outs instead of first.

Poland took the lead in the fourth when a Kathryn Hall grounder scored Nicole Chinnock. Then a Dani Belanger single and three-base error plated two runs for a 4-2 lead.

After Katelyn Bermudez made it 4-3 with a single and three-base error in the bottom of the fourth, the Knights scored twice in the fifth for the 6-4 lead. Chinnock’s flyout scored Toni Ritchie and Kaci Rae Ford scored on a wild pitch.

“It’s a huge win for us,” said Simpson. “We go to York (Friday) with a lot more confidence than we had. You can’t teach that. You have to prove it themselves.”

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