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Nothing changed last Wednesday for soon-to-be retired Lauralton Hall softball coach Theresa Napolitano and her team.

As usual, she gave her pre-game speech before the Crusaders took on Masuk of Monroe in what was an important early-season South-West Conference battle between two squads who have been powers in the league for the last eight years.

What Napolitano did stress to her young team is what mattered.

“I knew that some of them would be in awe of Tatum Buckley (Masuk’s junior pitcher),” said Napolitano, who will close out what has been a successful career in coaching later this spring.

“After all, we’re a very young team. Buckley is the type of kid who can overpower you. Not only can she do that with her pitching, but she can do it with her hitting and fielding, too.”

It’s obvious that her charges listened to what she had to say. But Tatum Buckley had little difficulty in pitching a 4-0 shutout.

Using an assortment of pitches and a killer off-speed delivery, Buckley struck out 14 in notching the fourth perfect game of her scholastic career. Melissa Peet provided the big hit, a two-run double in the fifth inning for Masuk.

“Because we’re a little inexperienced, we’re simply trying to go out there and improve with each game,” Napolitano said. “We are going through our growing pains. Today, it was a matter of trying to make contact. Our mission was to try and get the ball past Tatum and make their other fielders do some of the work.”

It proved to be an arduous task. Of the six balls that the Crusaders were able to put in play, Buckley handled three of them, all ground balls which she threw the runner out at first on.

Masuk shortstop Ashley Fedor handled two others, also grounders, and catcher Kayla Crisci caught a pop up off the bat of fellow catcher Alex Moleski right in front of home plate.

Peet came up to bat in the fifth with Buckley on second after a double and Fedor on first after she was intentionally walked.

Peet drove the fourth pitch that she saw from Haley Congdon to left field, where Rachel Landock tried to take it on the short hop to her right, but the ball got past her and Peet came all the way around to score.

“Anytime someone is walked intentionally in front of you, it creates a pressure situation,” said Masuk coach Jacqui Sheftz, whose team was 3-0 after the game and had outscored its opponents, 22-0.

“Melissa handled the situation beautifully. She relished in the moment.”

Masuk had 11 hits off of Congdon, a sophomore right-hander who struck out two and walked three (two of them intentionally). The Panthers left nine runners on base.

“We had a bad game defensively against Westhill (in a 13-10 loss) and they exploited our weaknesses,” said Napolitano, her team was 1-2 following the loss.

“Today, we were much better. But we knew facing and trying to beat Tatum wouldn’t be easy. She’s the complete package. She hits, she fields and obviously, she pitches very well.”