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HORSHAM – Kellianna Bradstreet’s pitch for her 13th strikeout of the afternoon had barely touched the glove of catcher Cari Anderson when the celebration began.
Players – past and present – dashed out of the Maidens’ dugout and leaped into each other’s arms. The non-stop cheers that had filled the afternoon air for nine emotion-packed innings were replaced by shrieks of joy.
On the other side of the diamond, Hatboro-Horsham’s players looked on in stunned silence.
It was a telling portrait of life in the post-season.
One team’s celebration is another team’s heartbreak, and although the Hatters’ roster bears no resemblance to the one that captured last year’s state crown, this group of players believed their team had a chance to succeed in the post-season as well.
But it was the never-say-die Maidens eking out a 4-3 win after nine gut-wrenching innings to earn a date with defending district champion Owen J. Roberts in a quarterfinal game on Friday.
“This means everything,” Bradstreet said. “It means so much to the seniors. It means so much because last year we lost in the second round.
“Now we’re going to the third round. We know Owen J. Roberts – we got them.”
The emotions on the Hatters’ sidelines were decidedly more subdued.
Jenna Phillips shook her head, unable to put her emotions into words.
“I don’t know what to say,” the senior co-captain said.
Senior co-captain Sara Dougherty needed just two words to sum up her feelings.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said.
The Maidens won it when Danielle Kalis – who singled to lead off the ninth - sprinted home from third base on a wild pitch.
“The ball was trailing, and it just kept going,” Kalis said of a pitch in the dirt that ricocheted off Dougherty and rolled toward the Hatters’ dugout. “At first coach told me to hold, but I saw it keep trailing, and I saw no one was covering the bag.
“I thought, ‘I have to go. I have to score. I have to do this for my team.’”
Kalis was one of four Maidens to collect a pair of hits. Bradstreet, Miranda Sergas and Alyssa Campbell also each had two hits.
“Danielle hasn’t been hitting, but she’s been making great defensive plays,” coach Rick Torresani said of his senior leftfielder. “She kept an eye on where the ball was going. I’m thinking the catcher’s got it, but she knew where it went, and she went on her own, which is just awesome.
“She was mentally into the game today.”
The game was far from over.
Jackie DiPietro led off the bottom of the ninth by lining a single to left center, but then came a play that may have sealed the Hatters’ fate when Maiden third baseman Mary Ward pounced on a sacrifice bunt attempt and fired to second for the forceout.
Bradstreet did the rest, retiring the next batter she faced on a groundout to the mound and fanning the final batter to put the finishing touches on a stellar performance.
The sophomore hurler – who was hit by a pitch on the elbow in the fifth inning – was wearing an icepack on her sore elbow, but if it bothered her, Bradstreet didn’t let it show, allowing just seven hits while striking out 13 and walking just one.
“At first it stung,” she said. “But I was like, ‘I have to brush it off. I have to do what I can to finish this strong – go back out and fire even harder and show that it’s not going to affect me.’”
The Maidens spotted Bradstreet a 1-0 lead in the first when Ward, who drew a leadoff walk, scored on a wild pitch.
They added two more in the fifth. Kalis got the inning started with an infield single, and Ward drew a walk. Sergas lined a one-out double down the left field line that plated Kalis. The second run crossed the plate when Bradstreet was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
That 3-0 lead looked like money in the bank.
Until the sixth inning.
Dougherty ignited the Hatters by lining a leadoff single to center and immediately stealing second. She moved up to third on Val Sadowl’s bunt, and when Megan Kelly hit a bloop single to center, Dougherty raced home with the Hatters’ first run.
“I heard Sarah (Dougherty) say earlier that not quitting is just part of who we are,” coach Kelly Krier said. “We have done it all season.”
Chelsea Edwards fought off three two-strike pitches in a superb at-bat and drew a walk. An error on Phillips’ grounder loaded the bases with one out, setting the stage for back-to-back suicide squeeze plays that netted a pair of runs and included Maiden miscues on both.
“We were a little down because we were making some mistakes,” Kalis said of watching the Hatters come back to knot the score 3-3. “They were taking advantage of our mistakes.
“We came here with a purpose, and we knew that we wanted to win this game, and we weren’t going to go home unless we had a win.”
The Maidens plated the go-ahead run in the ninth. Kalis got things started with a looping hit down the right field line that got by the outfielder, allowing her to advance to second base.
“It just felt so good,” Kalis said. “I felt like I got under the ball, and my initial thought was ‘I’m out,’ but I ran through, and I saw it go past the outfielder. I just ran as hard as I could.
“It felt so good to finally come out of a slump.”
Kalis moved up to third when Ward’s sacrifice bunt was misplayed, and she scored the game winner on a wild pitch.
“North Penn came up with the hits when they needed to, and they got the win,” Krier said. “But in my heart, this was a real special group for so many reasons, and I really couldn’t be prouder.
“With the leadership of Jenna and Sara as seniors and Megan Kelly and Chelsea Edwards as juniors, the younger girls just fed off of them. Today to battle back the way they did, taking risks and getting the job done – I’m very proud of that. Obviously, I’m upset that the ball didn’t bounce our way, but I’m not taking anything away from what our girls accomplished.”
There was a trace of a smile on Dougherty’s face as she considered the season just completed.
“I think we’re all proud of ourselves,” she said. “No one was expecting us to go far since we lost all those players from last year’s team.
“The truth is youth doesn’t matter. It just takes heart, and that’s what we had.”
EXTRA INNINGS: Both teams came up with several defensive gems. Kalis made a sliding catch on her knees of a foul ball in the second inning. Ward snagged a wicked grounder off the bat of Edwards to lead off the eighth and fired to first for the out. The play loomed large when the next two Hatters – Phillips and Chrissy James - singled. “That probably saved the game for them,” Krier said. For the Hatters, Phillips gunned down a runner at the plate attempting to score from second on a single to center in the first. In the fourth, Kelly snagged a sinking line drive in left and fired home where Dougherty made the tag of the runner attempting to score from third for an inning-ending double play. Lost in the shuffle of the disappointing loss was the standout relief effort of Maggie Shaffer, who worked the final four and a third innings, allowing just two hits and no earned runs while fanning 10.
NORTH PENN 4, HATBORO-HORSHAM 3 (9 innings)
NORTH PENN: Mary Ward 3b 2 2 0 0, Janelle Stawasz 1b 4 0 0 0; Mirand Sergas cf 4 0 2 1; Alyssa Campbell 2b 4 0 2 0, Kellianna Bradstreet p 3 0 2 1; Cari Anderson c 4 0 0 0; Samantha McGinty dp 4 0 1 0; Christie Mallozzi pr 0 0 0 0; Taylor Marchozzi ss 4 0 0 0; Danielle Kalis lf 4 2 2 0. TOTALS 33 4 9 2.
HATBORO: Sara Dougherty c 5 1 2 0; Val Sadowl ss 4 0 0 0; Megan Kelly lf 5 1 2 1; Chelsea Edwards 1b 3 1 0 0; Jenna Phillips cf 3 0 1 0; Chrissy James 2b 4 0 1 1; Melissa Spinosa rf 4 0 0 0; Maggie Shaffer dp,p 4 0 0 0; Jackie DiPietro 3b 4 0 1 0; Danielle DiFilippo p 0 0 0 0. TOTALS 36 3 7 2.
North Penn 100 020 001-4
Hatboro 000 003 000-3
E-Hatboro 3, NP 3. DP-Hatboro 1. LOB-NP 9, Hatboro 9. 2B-Sergas. SB-Dougherty.
IP H R ER BB SO
Bradstreet (W) 9 7 3 1 1 13
DiFilippo 4 2/3 7 3 3 2 2
Shaffer (L) 4 1/3 2 1 0 2 10