‘Survive and advance.’
That’s been the motto of Abington’s softball team during the post-season, and in truth, it’s the mantra of every team when playoff time arrives.
Eight SOL teams were alive when the day began on Wednesday. Four survived the day.
Those teams survived because players like Kirby Groves, Christina Udris, Nicole Rodi and Danielle Kalis - among others - came up big when it mattered most.
North Penn, the tournament’s 10th seed upset seventh-seeded Hatboro-Horsham 4-3 in nine innings. Fourth-seeded Pennsbury needed some late-game heroics to down 13th seeded Haverford 3-1. Neshaminy, the sixth seed, defeated 11th seeded Boyertown 4-1, and third-seeded Central Bucks South upended 14th seeded Kennett 7-1.
Abington, seeded 12th, suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 loss at the hands of fifth-seeded Garnet Valley. Ninth-seeded Norristown saw its season end in a 7-1 loss to eighth-seeded Spring-Ford. Top-seeded Downingtown West defeated 17th seeded Plymouth Whitemarsh 3-0. In the remaining quarterfinal game, defending district champion Owen J. Roberts, the tournament’s second seed, easily defeated 18th seeded Coatesville 9-0
Pennsbury 3, Haverford 1
It took six innings before Pennsbury finally solved the mystery of Haverford hurler Michele Patten.
Sophomore D’Anna Devine broke up Patten’s no-hit bid with a leadoff single to center, and she wound up on second when the ball was misplayed. She advanced to third on Alyssa Shirley’s sacrifice bunt and sprinted home on a wild pitch.
Lauren Rossi followed and drew her third walk of the day, and Falcon hurler Kait Schilling had some insurance when Kirby Groves - less than 24 hours removed from being chosen the SOL National Conference’s Player of the Year - lofted a mighty two-run blast over the left field fence.
“Kirby hit an absolute bomb,” coach Frank McSherry said. “I don’t know how far it would have gone if it wouldn’t have hit the top of the trees in left field - 250, 260 feet.
“It was the furthest home run I have seen her hit. She crushed it.”
The Falcons needed Groves’ mighty home run as the Fords – with a run across - loaded the bases with one out in the seventh.
“Sarah Gosselin made a great running catch in center field of a line drive,” McSherry said of the inning’s second out. “Lauren Rossi fielded a ground ball and touched second base for the final out.
“It was a nail biter. It looked like we were home free after we got the three runs in the sixth inning, but they came back.
“She (Patten) threw well, and we chased a lot of bad pitches. We knew what she was going to throw, and we still chased. We were very undisciplined.”
The Falcons will host Garnet Valley on Friday. Mound ace Courtney Spina has allowed just one earned run this season – six runs all told - for a Jaguar team that advanced to the state quarterfinals last season and the state semis the year before that
“It’s going to get tougher on Friday,” McSherry said. “They only have one loss, and (Haverford) is the team that gave them the one loss.
“She’s a very good pitcher. We’ll have our hands full, especially if we chase pitches like we did today.”
Central Bucks South 7, Kennett 1
Senior leadership was the key to Central Bucks South’s win over Kennett.
The Titans found themselves locked in a scoreless tie when senior Nicole Rodi led off the fifth inning with a single. By the time the inning was over, Rodi had a pair of hits and two RBIs and the Titans led 7-1.
“Our bats just weren’t alive at all when the game started,” coach Jennifer Robinson said. “Their pitcher (Allie McQuaid) had some decent movement, but she didn’t have a ton of speed.
“The girls had to adjust. Initially, instead of picking up their bat speed to compensate for the slower pitch, they were slowing down and weren’t getting any pop on the ball.”
Rodi’s leadoff single got the ball rolling for the Titans. Taylre Stocks followed with a single, and senior Melanie Molnar delivered an RBI single.
“It started with a senior hit, and it started with a senior RBI, and from there, it just kept on going,” Robinson said.
Francesca Carrullo delivered a sacrifice fly, and with two outs, the Titans’ two through seven batters – Molly Hare, Haileigh Stocks, Morgan Decker, Lauren Klepchick (RBI), Rodi and Taylre Stocks (RBI) – collected consecutive singles.
On the mound, Devon Utterback (5 Ks, 0 BB) worked four scoreless innings while Francesca Carrullo (2 Ks, 1 BB) threw the final three to earn the win. Kennett managed just three hits – a single, double and triple - and scored its only run (unearned) in the sixth on a passed ball.
“Devon pitched a great game, but we’re splitting the pitching for the playoffs,” Robinson said. “When you have two pitchers that have had a perfect record all season and have contributed so much and worked together to bring our team to where it is, why not let them work together through these playoff games.”
The Titans will face a familiar foe in Friday’s quarterfinal - former National Conference rival Neshaminy. Last year, the teams split their two meetings. Both were one-run games as the Redskins won the first 7-6 and the Titans won the second 1-0.
“That’s going to be a very exciting game,” Robinson said. “I’m looking to my senior leadership which stepped up today in the fifth inning and looking for the underclassmen to contribute with their bats, and everyone’s defense has been key all season.
“We’ve had a great season, and I hope our post-season is a reflection of the season we’ve had.”
Neshaminy 4, Boyertown 1
Christina Udris was a perfect three-for-three at the plate with a single, double and triple, and it was the sophomore shortstop’s two-run triple in the third that gave the Redskins some breathing room in their win over the visiting Bears.
Coach Kathleen Houser isn’t convinced that having a first round bye was necessarily a positive for her squad.
“I would have rather played on Monday,” she said. “Seeding is just a number, and I think it’s such an advantage to start off with a game because the first one is kind of a nerveracking game.”
The Bears actually struck first, plating a run in the top of the first, but the Redskins came to life in the second. Udris led off the frame with a single, but she was erased at second on a forceout. Kelsey Ryan singled, and with runners on second and third, Sarah McGowan helped her own cause with a two-run single to right.
In the third inning, Jackie Franzen walked, and Courtney Clee’s bunt was misplayed, putting a pair of runners on board for Udris, who delivered the two-run triple.
“After the first inning, our defense was just awesome,” Houser said. “Sarah wasn’t overpowering, but she got the job done.”
McGowan allowed just two hits, striking out five and walking three. The Redskins collected seven hits off losing hurler Shelby Beaver.
It is the second time in as many years that the Redskins sent Boyertown home for the season.
Garnet Valley 1, Abington 0
Abington had its chances against a Garnet Valley team that has lost just once this season, but the Ghosts – who stranded six – never could push a run across against Jaguar hurler Courtney Spina, who notched her 12th shutout of the season.
The Jaguars scored the game’s only run in the sixth, benefitting from a Ghost error that put a runner on second to lead off the frame.
“The next kid up (Nicole Spina) – who is a very good hitter but we had her shut down until the sixth - roped a double over my leftfielder’s head,” coach Ellie White said. “The girl who was on second is rounding third, and she tripped and fell. She has to go back to third base.
“They had runners on second and third, and I thought we might get out of it.”
But a sacrifice fly to center field plated what turned out to be the game winner.
“It was a close play at the plate, but she scored,” White said.
The Ghosts had a runner on board in the seventh but came up empty. All told, the Ghosts had two hits but were on the receiving end of six walks.
“She is good,” White said of Spina. “But is she as good as Sarah McGowan? No. Is she as fast as Rachael Alligood? No.
“She’s definitely a good pitcher, but she’s beatable. I told my kids – if we take them into extra innings, we win that game because we were getting runners on. It was a great game. It’s a shame it ended the way it did.”
Abington’s Tegan Wendell allowed just three hits and no earned runs.
White bids farewell to seniors Wendell, Ali Muehlbronner, Bridget Gordon, Kelly Gregorio, Kelsey Hilliard, Katey Salus, Sam Stutz and Ashleigh Frajerman.
Spring-Ford 7, Norristown 1
The Eagles plated a first-inning run when senior co-captain Kim Detwiler delivered an RBI double. It would be their last hurrah as they managed just one hit the rest of the way – a bunt single by Maggie Creciun.
“Overall, you have to credit Spring-Ford,” coach Jon Kandrick said. “They came out, and they hit the ball well today. They kept us off-balance. They deserved to win.
“Daisy (Foster) pitched a good game, but unfortunately, the defense didn’t back her up today. We didn’t play great defense, and we were very undisciplined at the plate. We were swinging at her rise ball the whole game.”
The Eagles lose just two seniors, but those seniors – Detwiler and co-captain Shauna Byrnes – played key roles in leading a young Eagles’ squad to an American Conference crown.
“They’re very good leaders and very talented kids,” Kandrick said. “They were both first team all-league, but most importantly, I’m going to miss their leadership next year.
“Just two great captains, two great kids. They represent the program well in and out of school. Just two absolutely wonderful kids, and they will be missed.”
Downingtown West 3, Plymouth Whitemarsh 0
PW’s Alycia Sabol pitched well enough to win on most days, allowing just four hits, but Caroline Raymond did even better, tossing a no-hitter to lead West to the shutout win.
North Penn 4, Hatboro-Horsham 3 (see feature article)
Senior Danielle Kalis, who singled to lead off the ninth, crossed the plate with the winning run on a wild pitch. Kellianna Bradstreet struck out 13 and allowed just one earned run in nine strong innings.