Regina and Mercy combine for 9 home runs to split early season doubleheader

Regina powered past Mercy with five home runs in a 12-8 victory on Tuesday, April 2. Providing the thunder were Abby Hornberger (left), Mia Konyvka, Marisa Muglia, Leah Munson and Jacqueline Jozefczyk. (Courtesy of Julie Munson)

WARREN — The last time Warren Regina and Farmington Hills Mercy squared off in softball, it was last May for the Catholic League A-B Championship.

Regina rallied for a 5-4 come-from-behind victory.

On a bright, blustery Tuesday afternoon, both squads turned on the power to eliminate any notion their opponent might have been harboring such dramatics.

Regina (2-2) used five home runs to secure a 12-8 victory in the first game, while Mercy (3-2) batters cleared the fence four times to win the nightcap 11-4.

Leadoff batter Jacqueline Jozefczyk smacked the second pitch from Julia Crowley way over the left-center fence to put Regina up 1-0 before spectators could get settled in blankets and assorted winter gear.

The Saddlelites scored another run for a 2-0 lead that Mercy wiped out in its second inning on a two-run double by Libby Chevalier, and took a 3-2 lead the next inning on Kendall Spivey’s round-tripper.

Legendary coach Diane Laffey’s squad responded with five runs in their half of the third inning without any of the thunder that would come later.

They used a formula of a batter hit by a pitch, a single, a run-resulting error, two RBI ground balls, and a walk climaxed by Alana LaRue’s two-run double. Crowley was replaced on Mercy’s mound by Olivia Iafrate.

With two outs in the fourth inning, Marisa Muglia doubled and Mia Konyvka followed with a home run to put Regina in front for good, 7-2.

Regina sealed the deal with three homers in the sixth: back-to-back by Leah Munson and Muglia, and an out later, by Abby Hornberger.

Muglia pitched a complete game, giving up nine hits and striking out eight.

In the second game, Regina scored twice in the first inning as it had in the opener. This time, Jozefczyk hit the first pitch she saw into the right field corner for a triple. Muglia walked, and Konyvka and Hornberger followed up with run-scoring singles.

The Marlins jumped all over Konyvka’s offerings in the third inning to take a 6-2 lead. Samantha Shea walked and scored on a double by Spivey, who in turn came home on Maggie Murphy’s homer. With one out, Dunya Kizy kept the rally going with a two-bagger, Caroline Carlson walked, and both scored via Iafrate’s home run.

Shea kept the Saddlelites in check for four innings, allowing just three singles, and giving up meaningless runs in the sixth and seventh. For the game, she averaged just 10 pitches an inning, allowing 10 hits and fanning nine.

Jozefczyk relieved Konyvka in Regina’s disastrous third inning, and was equally effective in her 3.2 innings of relief, facing just 13 batters and giving up three hits — until the top of the seventh.

Murphy led off with her second home run of the game, and Chevalier cracked a three-run shot.

Noteworthy: On the field, a combined 90 years of service in the Catholic League was represented by a pair of legendary individuals: Laffey, who has been at Regina since 1963 and is the state’s winningest softball coach with 1,182 victories, and in the Marlins’ dugout, athletic director Nancy Malinowski, at Mercy since 1985.

The question was posed to Malinowski: “What keeps you going for so long?”

Her answer would probably be echoed by Laffey: “It’s the kids. The kids.”

Also on the field, Kayce Nieto, assistant coach to Mercy’s Jerry Ashe. She was an All State and All Catholic pitcher for Mercy (Class of 2012) and attended and played at the University of Utah (Class of 2016). She’s in her second year of law school at Wayne State University.

“I miss softball a lot,” she said, but added she's thrilled to be coaching her sister, Grace, a sophomore at Mercy.

“She’s an absolute stud,” Kayce said, explaining: “She’s the kind of athlete you want. I haven’t seen anyone with her work ethic, and I roomed at Utah with an All American.”

Kayce revealed that Grace has made a verbal commitment to attend Northwestern.