Chesapeake-AA’s softball team, ranked No. 1 in the VSN preseason Top 20, breathed a collectively sigh of relief after rallying from a one-run deficit in the sixth inning against host Mount de Sales on Monday.

A timely hit by senior catcher Gabrielle Couture and sharp pitching by Meg Hyson (12 strikeouts) helped the Cougars steal a 3-1 decision over a tough Sailors team.

“We stole this one,” Chesapeake coach Don Ellenberger said.  “We were fortunate today. I talked to Mount de Sales’ coach [Pete Waskiewicz] before the game and asked him what does your team look like? He said, ‘we’re sound fundamentally and we’re going to give you a battle.’  He was dead-on with that.”

Ellenberger added: “They had us down but we got a couple of key hits in the sixth and seventh to tie the score, put us ahead, then give us a little cushion.  We gutted it out.”

Trailing by a single run in the sixth, Hyson (2-for-3 at the plate) drew a walk to start the inning.  Kim Federowicz followed with a sacrifice bunt and Hyson moved to third on an overthrow.

Mount de Sales’ sophomore starting pitcher Ashley Lewenski struck out the next batter, Jacqueline Richards, but the ball got past freshman catcher Laurie Sena and Richards was safe at first.

After Richards stole second base, Couture stepped to the plate with two runners in scoring position and one out.  Couture, an All-Met selection last season, got ahold of a pitch and lined it into center field to plate Hyson and Richards.

“It was just one of those clutch hits. We knew that we needed a hit and it just happened that I was up to bat,” said Couture, who was 0-for-2 before the hit.  “It was just clutch timing, that’s all it really was.”

In the seventh, Hyson hit an RBI single to score Alexis Braun, who was hit in the back with a pitch earlier in the inning to stretch the lead.

“We didn’t come out too strong but we buckled down when we needed to,” Hyson admitted.  “I think we’re going to be a good team this year, we just have to keep standard up. We’re a young team, so it’s going to be hard for us but I think we can do it.”

Mount de Sales jumped ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning after Lewenski scored on an RBI single by Jess Jurney. The throwLewenski beat Lewenski to the plate but bounced away from Couture before she could apply the tag.

On the mound, Lewenski used a mix of pitches including a change-up, struck out nine batters and kept the Cougar hitters off-balance.

“Ashley threw a heck of a ball game; I felt that she matched [Hyson],” said Sailors coach Pete Waskiewicz. “It’s just that they got the timely hit…You have to play a perfect against the No. 1 team and we didn’t play a perfect game, it cost us.”

Chesapeake is looking to build on last season’s 20-3 record. This season, with the No. 1 ranking in most media polls, Chesapeake knows that there is a bull’s eye on its back along with lofty expectations.

“We’re definitely going to have to work on a lot of things, like our hitting which wasn’t that great today,” Couture said.  “We’re definitely a young team, that’s for sure. We have a lot of things to work on but I think as the season progresses, we’re definitely going to have a chance to be the top team like everybody says.”

No. 1 Chesapeake-AA 3, Mount de Sales 1

C             000         002         1              —             3   6   1

MDS       000         100         0              —             1   3   3

Hyson and Couture; Lewenski, Fioretti (7) and Sena.

WP: Hyson; LP: Lewenski.

2B: C-Richards; MDS-Sites.

RBI: C-Couture (2), Hyson (1); MDS-Jurney (1).