Dominating against a Division I team is a tall task. Avoiding any and all mistakes is nearly impossible. Sometimes, even sheer luck can derail an otherwise masterful performance. But occasionally, everything falls into place like clockwork, allowing an athlete to reach an elusive state of perfection. And that is what graduate pitcher Brooke Plonka captured against Coppin State University, in stunning fashion.
The Georgetown University softball team (11-24, 5-7 Big East), coming off a stretch of improved showings, faced off against the Coppin State University Eagles (5-23, 2-10 MEAC) on April 11. A perfect game by Plonka and a home run by graduate outfielder Cameron Kondo lifted the Hoyas to a 1-0 victory in a close pitchers’ duel.
Plonka did not allow a single base runner throughout the course of the game, earning the first perfect game in Georgetown history and setting a new school strikeout record of 15 over seven innings.
The game began quietly for both offenses. Plonka induced a pop-up to right field against Coppin State’s leadoff hitter and proceeded to collect 8 strikeouts consecutively, silencing the Eagles for the first three innings.
Plonka said she leaned on her screwball as a putout pitch against right-handed hitters while also effectively harnessing the movement on her rise ball and curveball to generate results. Plonka credited Head Coach Pat Conlan and graduate catcher Mae Forshey for helping her develop her game plan heading into the matchup.
“Me and Coach Pat and Mae, our catcher, were using this game to try stuff out, try things that don’t always work, and it really ended up working,” Plonka told The Hoya.
The Hoyas struggled to capitalize on Plonka’s dominance early on to put the game out of reach, however. After an uneventful first inning, senior infielder Lorena Vasquez-Inzunza and junior first baseman Kiaris Alvarado Rojas both singled in the second inning but were ultimately unable to score.
Fortunately for Georgetown, Kondo lifted a belt-high pitch past the center-field fences for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third, the only run scored throughout the entire game.
Even as the Hoyas logged multiple base runners in every inning for the rest of the game, they struggled to bring runners in on clutch hits. Weak contact with runners in scoring position and baserunning miscues helped the Eagles escape unscathed, keeping the game on the wire until the last inning.
Georgetown would continue to hold onto the lead despite these costly mistakes, thanks to Plonka’s continued command over the game. Coppin State, unable to generate any momentum, struck out twice in the fourth and once in the fifth. Plonka kept up her untouchable form in the sixth inning, striking out the side and adding to her stellar stat line.
Plonka said her in-game adjustments with graduate catcher Mae Forshey helped her resharpen her focus in the latter half of the match.
“I was getting a little comfortable on the mound,” Plonka said. “Mae and I had a moment where we were like, alright, they’re starting to get little pieces of this. Let’s really zone in on moving it off the plate, hitting it more on the corner, really trying to get that ball up and out of the zone.”
Plonka added that strong defense gave her extra leeway as a pitcher and boosted her confidence, pointing to a stellar play on a bunt by Rojas and an outfield catch by first-year outfielder Claire Turner.
“I love to get strikeouts. It’s a great feeling, but it’s more of the confidence that knowing your defense is behind you,” Plonka said. “If the ball was put in play, my defense was gonna get that out. It just gives me a sense of confidence when I’m on the mound.”
Coppin State generated its loudest contact in the seventh, logging 2 of its only 3 batted balls that left the infield. Nevertheless, Plonka locked down the perfect game on a lineout by the last batter to Turner.
Plonka said she was unaware of her remarkable achievement until her teammates started celebrating following the final out.
“When Claire caught the ball, I, again, didn’t really register it was a perfect game until I saw my teammates running at me and everyone was screaming in my face,” Plonka said.
Georgetown’s win was the result of a collective team effort, Plonka said.
“It’s great to throw a perfect game, but the way the team was able to make the plays when they needed to, Kiaris with the bunt, Cam with the home run,” Plonka said. “We had some things we could’ve done better and just using that as a building block, being really proud of pushing through that 1-0 win. No matter what, it’s a team win.”
Plonka said she hopes to use the stellar performance as an affirmation of her own strengths.
“After having a really up-and-down year, it’s sometimes hard to go out and be like, ‘I am going to dominate this game. I am going to go out and strike people out,’” Plonka said. “So I think just that confidence of knowing I have done it this year, this is who I am.”
“I’m just really happy that I can leave that with the team,” Plonka added. “Just being able to feel like I left a small mark on Georgetown is really important and cool after they’ve taken me in so wonderfully.”
Georgetown will stay home at the Washington Nationals Youth Academy to face the Creighton Bluejays (17-22, 3-9 Big East) in a three-game series starting Friday, April 14 at 3 p.m.
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