The SOL/Bicentennial kept its Carpenter Cup title hopes alive with a pair of wins on Wednesday. To view game action photos, please visit the Photo Gallery.
Nikki Alden doesn’t mind the sweltering heat.
“It’s better than the cold, I can say that,” the William Tennent sophomore said. “We don’t let the heat get to us. We have the main focus of winning the entire tournament, and we don’t let the heat get in our heads.”
Teammate Paige DeCew (Pennridge) apparently shared Alden’s sentiments because the duo ignored the oppressive heat to combine for a no-hit shutout in the SOL/BAL’s Carpenter Cup 1-0 win over Chester County in a loser’s bracket contest on Wednesday.
“I thought it was fun,” Alden said. “There’s nothing else to describe it.”
The win vaulted the SOL/BAL team into Thursday’s final day of competition where it will face a Berks/Lancaster Lebanon squad that handed the SOL/BAL its only tournament loss in a 9 a.m. game. Waiting in the wings to take on the winner of that game is the tournament’s lone undefeated squad, Lehigh Valley.
The SOL/BAL would have to win three straight games, including two wins over Lehigh Valley, to capture the tournament title.
The SOL/BAL notched a pair of wins on Wednesday to keep its title hopes alive.
“It’s exciting,” North Penn junior Michelle Holeger said. “Our goal was to get there and win the whole tournament, so we’re a step closer.”
Making Wednesday’s no-hit shutout even more impressive was the fact that Chester County was coming off an 11-1 rout of Tri-Cape in its preceding game.
“We had three errors, but we were able to keep them from scoring,” coach Heather Boyer said. “They hit some balls to the outfield, but for the most part, we played great defense behind them.
“When we had the errors, we were able to keep them from scoring. They were very composed.”
Boyer tipped her hat to Alden and DeCew.
“Especially with the weather conditions they played in today – it was hot,” the Upper Dublin coach said. “They’re playing in the heat of the day. Nikki threw three and a third in the first game, and then to come back and throw four more – that’s tough.”
The SOL/BAL scored the only run of the game in the first inning. Caroline Schoenewald led off with a single, and North Penn’s Erin Maher followed with a bunt single to put runners on first and third. Schoenewald was gunned down at the plate attempting to score on Holweger’s fly ball to right field, but Julia Schoenewald saved the day when she delivered a clutch two-out RBI single.
The SOL/BAL would manage just two hits the rest of the way, but Alden and DeCew made sure that 1-0 lead stood. Alden, who earned the win on the mound, threw the first three and two-thirds innings while DeCew threw three and a third innings. DeCew retired 10 of 11 batters she faced with the only base runner reaching first on a two-out error in the seventh.
“I love pitching for this team because you’re playing with the best of the best,” Alden said. “We have a great defense, and I always know they have my back.”
Alden, who also threw 3.2 innings in the BAL/SOL’s 5-3 win over Jersey shore, has had little trouble adjusting to a new catcher – Julia Schoenewald.
“Actually, we used to play together, and I used to pitch to her for our travel ball team, so it’s not that new,” Alden said.
Alden struck out one and walked one while DeCew had a pair of strikeouts and no walks.
Earlier in the day, the SOL/BAL earned a 5-3 win over Jersey Shore, this despite the fact that Jersey Shore held a 10-5 advantage in hits.
According to at least one SAL/BAL player, the fact that teams are required to use several pitchers in each game forces hitters to adjust on the fly.
“You get used to the one pitcher, and all of a sudden, there’s a random new pitcher in there,” Holweger said.
Jersey Shore scored a run in the top of the first, but the SOL/BAL answered with four in the bottom of the inning. Caroline Schoenewald got things started by roping a leadoff triple into the left center field gap. She scored on Maher’s bunt single on a perfectly-executed suicide squeeze. Holweger followed with a line single to left, and one out later, Alden was hit by a pitch. A second run crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly to center by Central Bucks East’s Jess Haug.
Central Bucks West’s Jessica D’Agostino, who had a pair of hits, delivered a two-out single that plated a pair and put the SOL/BAL on top 4-1.
“Jumping on a team early is nice because you get the runs, and it feels as though you can shut them down quicker,” Holweger said. “It takes the other team off their game.”
Holweger, a rare three-year veteran of the Carpenter Cup, had played every inning of every game for the SOL/BAL. A natural second baseman, she has seen action at third base, second base and first base.
“I enjoy it because it gives me a different feel for all the different positions,” she said.
Jersey Shore plated a run in the third to make it a 4-2 game. The SOL/BAL tacked on an insurance run in the sixth. DeCew was safe on an error to lead off the inning, and she moved up to second on Hallie Bilker’s sacrifice bunt. Ashleigh Sharp legged out a bunt single, and Ally Horvath drew an intentional walk to load the bases. DeCew raced home on Holweger’s fly ball to center field, putting the SOL/BAL on top 5-2.
Jersey Shore plated a single run in the seventh, but it was too little too late.
Alden earned the win, allowing seven hits and two runs in three and a third innings. North Penn sophomore Vicky Tumasz threw the final 3.2 innings, allowing three hits and one run.
The SOL/BAL, thanks to Wednesday’s wins, is one of three teams still standing heading into the final day of competition.
“When you have that one loss in the losing column, it’s easy to let those negative thoughts creep in because you’re tired and hot, but that was never even an option,” Boyer said.