There were several you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it thrillers in Monday’s opening round of the District One AAAA Tournament, most notably Plymouth Whitemarsh’s 7-4 nine-inning win over Truman. The Colonials were one of two SOL schools that needed extra innings to eke out wins.
SOL District Wrap - Opening Round
Three of the five SOL schools who saw action on Monday – PW, Abington and North Penn – advanced to Wednesday’s second round. Abington defeated Downingtown East 6-5 in eight innings while North Penn had the easiest time of the three, downing Penncrest 4-0. Pennridge saw its season end in a 2-0 loss to Haverford.
A win for the ages – It could take days for PW coach Rich Server to recuperate from Monday’s heartstopping, topsy-turvy 7-4 win over Truman. His players may need some recuperation time as well.
“They were so emotional about it,” the Colonials’ coach said. “They could have won, they could have lost, they could have won. It was unbelievable.
“After a game like this, you have nothing left to give, and that’s the way it should be.”
There was enough excitement in this one to last a lifetime for both sides.
After the Colonials plated a pair of runs in the sixth to go on top 3-2, it looked as though they might win it in seven when – with one out and a Truman runner on third – PW’s first baseman caught a foul pop-up for the inning’s second out.
“My catcher, I guess, thought there were three outs and doesn’t cover home,” Server said. “The kid scores on a tag-up from third base on a popup to the first baseman no more than 30 feet away from home.
“One out away, and we got the ball game. You can imagine – the heads went down.”
But not for long.
The Colonials were about to pull a miracle out of their hats.
Emilie Cruz, who would become the game’s unlikely hero, was just coming off the injured reserve list and was a game-time decision to start in left field because of an injury to PW’s regular leftfielder. When she stepped to the plate in the ninth inning, Cruz, a speedy switch hitter, had already struck out three times against Rachael Alligood, who fanned 18.
“This kid from Truman can throw the ball,” Server said. “She probably throws harder than anyone we have faced this year.”
Cruz elected to face Alligood from the right side of the plate after experiencing no success from the left side.
“With two strikes, she hit a little grounder between third and short, and she beats it out and steals second,” Server said. “With two outs, she was on third with two strikes on (Alyssa) Sabol, who is one of my better hitters, but she wasn’t getting it done at the plate either today.
“I gave Cruz the delayed steal of home (sign), and you know what, she steals home.”
Sabol and Renee Stiteler followed with back-to-back singles, and that brought Alexa Borkowski to the plate.
Talk about a chance for redemption – the Colonials’ catcher got just that when she nailed a three-run blast over the right center field fence.
“You couldn’t have scripted it any better,” Server said.
The Tigers plated a single run in the ninth, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Colonials earned the huge win.
Although Alligood fanned 18, she allowed 11 hits. Carlee Nosek was 3-for-4 to lead PW while Sabol, Stiteler and Borkowski each had a pair of hits.
Sabol struck out 14 while allowing nine hits. Truman’s talented leadoff batter, Ashley Black, had four of those hits. Alligood had three.
The win was the first playoff win ever in the history of PW’s program.
“It really was quite emotional,” Server said. “That game took us to the pinnacle of emotions. It took us the whole bus ride home to calm down from the emotions of that game.
“Sports can take you to the heights of emotions and the depths of emotions. When Cruz stole home, that was the play that set all the emotions loose.”
Server admits that he’ll go to sleep with visions of Cruz sliding under the tag at home plate and Borkowski hitting her heroic blast in a ninth inning. It’s one of those games PW softball fans will be talking about for years to come.
In Wednesday’s second round, the Colonials have a date with top-seeded Downingtown West.
“We’ll go after them, take whatever we get,” Server said.
Ghosts escape with win – There were some anxious moments, but Abington edged Downingtown East 6-5 in Monday’s opener.
The Ghosts took a 2-0 lead in the first, benefitting from several costly East miscues. It all started when Kelly Gregorio’s fly ball to the outfield was dropped and culminated with an error on Tegan Wendell’s RBI triple that allowed the Ghosts’ pitcher to circle the bases.
It turned out to be a preview of things to come.
After East plated four runs in the top of the fourth to go on top 4-2, the Ghosts rallied to knot the score in the bottom of the frame, benefitting from Taylor Tolton’s slap single and Bridget Gordon’s sacrifice fly as well as two more East errors.
“They were trying to give us the game,” coach Ellie White said.
She wasn’t kidding.
East went on top 5-4 in the fourth, but the Ghosts knotted the score in the fifth when pinch hitter Kelly Lyons, who singled, scored on an errant pickoff throw to third.
Gordon saved the day for the Ghosts in the top of the seventh when she turned a fly ball to center field into an inning-ending double play by firing a strike to home for the tag of the runner attempting to score from third.
“Bridget made the play of the game,” White said. “She threw a strike and nailed the girl at the plate.”
The Ghosts won it in the eighth. Ali Muehlbronner led off the inning with a single and, with the bases loaded, beat the throw to the plate for the game winner on a slow roller to third base by Katey Salus.
“It’s the first game – everyone has those jitters,” White said. “Our past three or four games have all been like this. I’m going to be gray by the time I’m 40.
“Our motto is ‘survive and advance.’ I told them before the game – ‘I don’t care how we do it. Survive and advance.”
The Ghosts have survived to earn a date with fifth-seeded Garnet Valley on Wednesday.
Maidens run past Lions – There’s no substitute for speed.
North Penn has plenty of it, and the 10th-seeded Maidens used that speed to earn a 4-0 win over Penncrest. The fun started early for the Maidens when Miranda Sergas grounded a two-out single to left in the bottom of the first and immediately stole second.
Alyssa Campbell legged out an infield single to deep short, and Sergas – without missing a beat – scored all the way from second on the throw to first, stunning the Lions and spotting the Maidens a 1-0 lead.
“We needed a run to get the game going, so I just went,” Sergas said. “There were two outs – what the heck?
“I have always been taught to run aggressively, and it got us our first run. We have to push the other team. We have to manufacture runs. It takes a lot of pressure off of Kell (Kellianna Bradstreet) when you get the first run.”
That first-inning run was all that Bradstreet would need. The sophomore hurler tossed a three-hit masterpiece, fanning six and walking one.
The Maidens added an unearned run in the third when Bradstreet roped a double to the opposite field, plating Campbell, who had reached first on an error. In the fifth, Mary Ward and Janelle Stawasz – after reaching base on back-to-back bunt singles – pulled off a double steal, and both scored when Sergas sent a double into the left center field gap.
Sergas and Wells led the Maidens with two hits each. Both also stole a base, and coach Rick Torresani credited Sergas for setting the tone with her aggressive base running in the first inning.
“That was huge,” he said. “You want to score runs early, and she’s not afraid to make that play. She’s not afraid to do it.
“Miranda and Mary both are very aggressive on the base paths, and that’s good. Make the defense make the play. That’s what I tell them – ‘You’re on your own. If you make it, you make it. If you don’t, you don’t, but just keep being aggressive.’”
The Lions had a pair of runners on board with one out in the seventh, but Bradstreet slammed the door on that potential rally by striking out the next batter she faced and coaxing a groundout back to the mound for the game’s final out.
“We came out like they were a number one seed today,” Bradstreet said. “We didn’t want to lose another bad game.
“We got one under our belts, and we’re going for the next one. We really want those Hatboro girls.”
The Maidens will get those ‘Hatboro girls’ on Wednesday in a second round game when they will take on Hatboro-Horsham for the third time this season. The Maidens defeated the defending state champions twice during the regular season – 5-4 in the initial meeting and 11-7 in a slugfest later in the season.
Rams silenced by Fords - Pennridge’s bats went strangely silent in its 2-0 season-ending loss to Haverford. The Rams, who struck out 11 times, managed just two hits.
“We just couldn’t hit,” coach Scott Didra said. “This hasn’t happened all season. We just don’t strike out a lot. I watched their pitcher warm up – she was not fast at all. I watched our team warm up – okay, good, our team was definitely better in the field.”
The Fords managed only four hits off losing pitcher Erica Smale, but one of those was a triple that came in a two-run uprising in the fourth.
There was nothing to suggest the Rams would have trouble generating offense when they had runners on second and third with one out in the first inning, but a strikeout and groundout ended that threat.
“Little did I know we wouldn’t get on base the rest of the game,” Didra said. “Here we are the first inning with runners on second and third. We had just pulled the double steal play I like to do, and it worked.
“The game just went boom, boom, boom. We were three up, three down, three up, three down. It was really frustrating to be on third base and watch it because that hasn’t happened to us all season.
“CB South pitched well against us, but we scattered five hits the first time and eight the second time. North Penn one-hit us, but that was it. Their pitcher had a lot of movement on the ball, and it was enough to mystify us, I guess.”
Didra admits he was disappointed with the outcome.
“It was a big thing for the girls to get there, and I thought we had a good chance of really doing something,” he said. “I would have loved to play Pennsbury, I couldn’t wait to play Pennsbury. I wanted so bad to play them.
“This was a shocker. I didn’t expect this at all. Our defense played really well. We made some good plays. It’s a shame because we have six seniors. The girls were kind of stunned.”
Didra bids farewell to Kate Wacyk, Kelsey Detweiler, Lauren Wilson, Christine Reiss, Sarah Denard and Angela Cressman.
The Rams closed out the season with a 12-9 record, tripling their win total of last season when they won just four games.
“To go from four wins to 12 wins and to qualify for districts and to play as competitively as we did all season with a few exceptions – I’m very proud of them,” Didra said. “They’re a great bunch of kids. I’ll miss the seniors, but there’s a good group coming back.”