The SOL/BAL won three straight games in Thursday’s oppressive heat to capture their first ever Carpenter Cup crown.
PHILADELPHIA – The trophy presentation was over, the last of the photos had been taken, and all that remained was for the players to gather for one final huddle. They broke with their familiar cheer, ‘SOL Swag.’
“All the girls are so talented,” North Penn sophomore Erin Maher said. “It was so much fun to play with them. We were just talking, and we said, ‘Let’s make a travel team and call it SOL Swag.’”
The SOL/BAL rode its immense talent and a bit of ‘swag’ to capture its first ever Carpenter Cup championship. A day of intense emotion culminated with the BAL/SOL’s 4-0 win over Lehigh Valley on Thursday at FDR Park, and a championship was in the books for a group of players who simply refused to lose, winning five straight after dropping their third game on Tuesday.
Three of those wins came in Thursday’s sweltering heat, which was no small feat, but winning three straight after watching coach Rick Torresani go down after being struck with a foul ball in the third inning of the first game was even more remarkable.
“It was scary,” said coach Heather Boyer, her voice breaking. “Ellie (White) and my job was to stay composed for the rest of the kids because they were a mess. They just really have such great respect for Rick Torresani.
“There was no other option, so we were playing to win and do it for him. They found a way to dig deep and got the job done.”
“It was an emotional roller coaster,” Central Bucks East sophomore Caroline Schoenewald said. “From coach Torresani getting hit to winning all three games and just playing all three games. It was a huge success for us and made us feel great.”
The dramatic day began with the SOL/BAL’s come-from-behind win over a Berks County/Lebanon Lancaster squad that had handed the team its only loss in the double elimination tournament.
The SOL/BAL trailed 4-0 when Torresani was transported to the hospital via ambulance. When play resumed, Julia Schoenewald (Central Bucks East) delivered a clutch double to center to make it a 4-1 game.
It was still a 4-1 game heading in the bottom of the sixth inning when the SOL/BAL exploded for five runs. Pennridge junior Paige DeCew got things started with a leadoff walk, and Abington’s Raechel Holden followed with a single to right. The bases were loaded after Abington junior Angela LaMaina was safe on an error. A bases-loaded walk to Ally Horvath (Central Bucks South) made it a 4-2 game, and another run crossed the plate when Central Bucks West sophomore Amanda Wolfgang singled.
Caroline Schoenewald singled, and a walk to Upper Dublin junior Ashleigh Sharp pushed another run across. Holweger’s RBI single put the SOL/BAL on top 5-4, and that lead was stretched to two when Julia Schoenewald lofted a sacrifice fly to center field.
Berks County rallied to knot the score in the top of the seventh, but the SOL/BAL had an answer. Holden got things started with a leadoff single, and she moved up to second on LaMaina’s sacrifice. The big win was in the books when Caroline Schoenewald delivered a clutch two-out single to left.
“Knowing that we were down to them (Tuesday) and didn’t come back – you have to get over that,” Maher said. “That was obviously a factor, but we got together and said, ‘We have to do this for coach.’”
DeCew, who threw the final four innings, earned the win on the mound, allowing five hits and two runs. Nikki Alden (William Tennent) started and threw three innings.
Riding the wave of that emotional win, the SOL/BAL exploded for six runs in the second inning of its first must-win game against Lehigh Valley, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 6-1 lead. Julia Schoenewald got things started with a leadoff single, and Alden and Jess Haug (Central Bucks East) followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases.
An RBI walk to Central Bucks West sophomore Jess D’Agostino knotted the score, and the SOL/BAL had a lead it would not lose when Hallie Bilker (Central Bucks South) picked up an RBI when she was hit by a pitch.
Caroline Schoenewald delivered the game’s big blow – a three-run triple to deep left field, and she scored on an RBI groundout by Sharp.
The SOL/BAL led 7-1 after Horvath, who had singled, scored on Holweger’s RBI single in the sixth. Lehigh Valley plated a meaningless run in the seventh.
Holweger and Horvath led the SOL/BAL’s 11-hit attack with two hits each.
Alden earned the win on the mound, allowing two hits and no earned runs in three innings. North Penn sophomore Vicky Tumasz tossed the final four innings, scattering four hits and allowing one run.
“It’s just really exciting because it was my first time playing (in the Carpenter Cup),” Alden said. “I think we really jelled as a team, and it makes it so much more fun.”
Boyer acknowledged that her team was prepared for a Lehigh Valley team that had rolled through the winner’s bracket without a loss.
“If I’m going to come down to this tournament, I’m going to be well prepared, so I watch every game possible,” the Upper Dublin coach said. “I scouted them yesterday, and I knew their pitchers were strong.
“We just needed to come out, hit the ball hard, score first, and that’s what we did in both games. We had a couple of opportunities where we put the ball in play and really made things happen. It was just a matter of getting to their pitching early.”
That’s exactly what the SOL/BAL did in the winner-take-all third game, plating four runs in the pivotal second inning. DeCew drew a leadoff walk, and Haug legged out a bunt single. The bases were loaded when D’Agostino singled up the middle. Tumasz followed and lined an RBI single to left. When Bilker’s grounder to second was misplayed, it was safe all around, and the SOL/BAL led 2-0.
Maher lined a clutch two-out single to left that plated a pair, and just like that, the SOL/BAL was on top 4-0.
Maher and Tumasz had a decided edge going against Lehigh Valley pitcher Marlaina Laubach since they are teammates on the Sellersville Belles.
“I knew what she had, and I knew her fastball was coming,” Maher said. “She throws some heat. She’s a very good pitcher, but luckily, I play with her.”
Those four runs were more than enough for the duo of DeCew and Alden. DeCew threw four shutout innings to earn the win, retiring the first nine batters she faced and striking out the side in the third.
“It’s a great feeling to get in that groove,” DeCew said. “I knew I had to do it for the team and for coach Torresani.
“That definitely gave us motivation to do a lot better, especially in this heat.”
Lehigh Valley’s Tiffany White collected her team’s first hit when she led off the fourth with a single, but she was erased at second on the defensive gem of the day when second baseman Caroline Schoenewald made a diving stop of a grounder in the second base hole off the bat of Arastina Barry and – while on her knees - flipped the ball to second for the forceout.
That play loomed large when the next batter, Lizzie Deutsch, singled up the middle, but DeCew retired the next two batters she faced to escape unscathed.
Alden closed out the game with three scoreless innings to put an exclamation point on the big win.
“They do have some kids who can hit well, and they do have some kids who can play a good small game,” Boyer said of Lehigh Valley. “We needed to keep them off the bases, so we had to work ahead.
“Paige DeCew did an outstanding job in the first four innings. I think she worked ahead of almost every batter and really never got behind. She kept them off the bases, and she did an outstanding job.
“Nikki is such an effective pitcher with her screwball, and it keeps hitters off balance and unsteady because they don’t know where it’s going. She did a great job as well.”
Boyer went on to laud the efforts of all of her players in the grueling tournament that included eight games in three days.
“These girls are used to playing three or four games in one day,” Boyer said. “They’re not used to doing it Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, so you know when you get to this point that you need extra pitching, so we decided to go very deep with that this year. That strategy really paid off this time.”
For the players, it was at long last time to celebrate.
“This feels awesome,” Tumasz said. “Especially since last year they lost in the championship round, it feels great.
“We all became really close and got to know each other better. We flew as a team. It was amazing.”
“This has been a great experience,” DeCew said. “It’s a lot of fun playing for these coaches and with these girls. It’s cool to get to know all the other softball players.”
“Oh my gosh, it’s incredible,” Julia Schoenewald said. “I was in this position last year, but we were the team that lost twice, and it’s great to be on the other side.”