The Lansdale Knights captured the tournament title, but this week’s tournament at Veterans Park was about a whole lot more than winning or losing.
Photos provided courtesy of Kathy Leister Photography. Check back for a photo gallery of Thursday’s action.
It was an imposing foursome talking about the six-team tournament just completed at Veterans Park on a sweltering hot day Thursday. Two seniors - captains Amanda Greaney and Victoria Juckniewitz – and two freshmen - Julia Shearer and Sarah Sabocsik.
The two captains – both recent North Penn graduates - entered their senior year with the remarkable distinction of starting every game since they stepped onto the diamond as freshmen. They’ve been an integral part of 60 wins and three conference championships, once advancing to the district final and twice earning a trip to the state quarterfinals. They never had a chance to go for the fourth title as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of spring sports.
Shearer and Sabocsik will have to wait until next year to begin writing their high school resumes, but both gave glimpses of a future that promises to be bright at a six-team tournament that their Lansdale Knights squad won.
“They didn’t treat us as freshmen,” Shearer said. “They treated us like we had so much potential and we’re like the older girls – they expected nothing less of us.
“Over the past two days, I’ve personally gotten stronger bonds with the seniors and upperclassmen. Without this tournament, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do that, so I’m happy we got at least something in.”
The duo looked anything but the part of rookies. Shearer was 6-for-12 (.500) with two home runs, two triples and a double while Sabocsik was 6-for-13 (.462) with two triples and a double. Shearer – in the absence of ace Mady Volpe - also notched a pair of wins in the circle Thursday.
“I said before – it was so nice to play with all the seniors again and really great to see the talent the freshmen have,” Juckniewitz said. “Everyone was in it for us, it seemed like, as seniors.
“Since the fall, there was so much potential, and we worked on so much stuff. A lot of it showed today and yesterday. It was awesome to see it.”
On Thursday, the Knights defeated the Rams 9-2 in the title game after notching an 11-1 win over the Indians earlier in the day.
“It’s kind of – in a sense – not disappointing, but we see how good we could have been this year just from these games, and in my head, we know how far we could have gone just from watching us these two days,” Greaney said. “So that’s kind of upsetting again – to think that we missed out on that opportunity.”
The Lehigh-bound senior tipped her hat the freshmen – the Knights had four on their varsity roster.
“I remember when I was a freshman I was the most nervous – I did not have a really good season as a freshman. Just to see them come in here and look unfazed by the pressure – it was really cool to see that,” Greaney said.
In Thursday’s title game against the Rams, Shearer set the tone for an eight-run first, doubling to the left field fence to lead off the inning and – later in the same inning – roping a shot to right center for an RBI triple. The lightening fast freshman scored a pair of runs in the inning.
Earlier in the day, Shearer ripped a solo home run on the first pitch in the Knights’ win over the Indians. The freshman standout knew that expectations were high for a Knight squad that last year fell in 11 innings in the state quarterfinals to eventual state champion Central Dauphin.
“From the fall, all of our practices – coach has been talking about how we’re the state championship team, we’re the team to get far,” Shearer said. “I just wish we would have been able to try to do that this year.
“I didn’t really know what to expect of the season. I knew we had Mady Volpe to pitch for us and she could definitely carry us far and we had all these great seniors who could do everything and that we were a really strong team with everything we have.”
Sabocsik – batting out of the two hole – followed Shearer’s triple with a triple of her own to right field, driving in her teammate with the eighth run of the inning.
“Through the winter and fall, they would talk about winning and being the best team that went to North Penn,” Sabocsik said. “I knew the practices and the games would be tough and the coaches would push us.
“They treated us amazingly – they treated us like family. They wanted the best for us.”
While the two freshmen delivered the big blows in the eight-run first, they had plenty of help. Juckniewitz collected a bunt single and scored, Greaney had a two-run single to drive in a pair of runs that included the game-winner, sophomore Lizzy Stark and junior Madison Reilly both singled and drove in a run, and junior Rachel Lowry had a two-run single.
Grace Helbling, who collected the final out of the first, allowed just one run the rest of the way. That came in the fourth when Juckniewitz, after collecting her second bunt single of the game, scored on a groundout by sophomore Sophia Collins.
The Rams scored a single run in the fourth when Mac Owens, who singled to lead off the inning, scored on a popup just over the infield by Sophia Vargo. They added a run in the sixth. Gianna Iadonisi led off the inning with a walk, and one out later, Owens – who had a pair of hits – doubled to left. A run scored on an RBI groundout by senior Victoria Moscariello.
For Iadonisi, the tournament represented her first opportunity to get back on the diamond since tearing her ACL last October.
“I think it was really important for all of us to get back on the field since we didn’t have our spring season,” Iadonisi said. “It was nice to be with all the players again since I wasn’t there because I tore my ACL.
“I was able to play in this tournament, but I wouldn’t have been able to do anything during the season. It felt really good - I don’t know how to explain it. I thought I wouldn’t be able to play softball this summer, and I’m glad to be on the field again. It was nice to be hanging with the girls.”
The outcome, according to Iadonisi, was secondary.
“We were just glad to be out here,” the recent Pennridge grad said.
Shearer – who earned the win – allowed just two hits in four innings, striking out five. In the third inning, Catelyn Thrush ripped a one-out double to left but was stranded as Shearer retired the next two batters she faced. Lowry closed out the game, allowing one run in three strong innings.
“This is just unbelievable the way we were able to end it,” Knights’ coach Rick Torresani said. “Specifically for the seniors but for everybody.
“There’s not a kid that wasn’t excited to be here yesterday and today and so grateful to be able to say good-bye to their teammates. Amanda (Greaney) has said to me – this team means so much to her, this was her family. This was something she looked forward to since she was in ninth grade. To end it this way and to end it with the championship of the tournament, I don’t have words to express how happy I am for all of them, including every team here.”
Earlier in the day, the Indians defeated Quakertown 3-1 and Pennridge upended the Rock Indians 5-2. The Knights downed Souderton 11-1 in the semifinals.
Listening to the Indians’ Naila Neely tell it, the tournament was just about the perfect ending.
“It was amazing,” the recent Souderton grad said. “I was actually sick the last two days before the quarantine happened and everything went crazy, so I missed our first scrimmage.
“It was heartbreaking. I was really looking forward to the season – I was a captain, so I had all these plans to really get us far in the season. I was looking forward to Senior Night, the banquet, everything that came along with the season just being on the field.
“It felt hopeless a little – I didn’t know when it was going to end, I didn’t know if I would ever see my teammates again. I didn’t think I was ever going to play a game for my senior season, so I’m very grateful I was able to play with everyone and say good-bye one last time.”
If there was one regret, it was that the tournament didn’t include more teams.
“It’s a shame – Lehigh Valley has a 16-team tournament,” Torresani said. “Their community got involved with it, they had sponsors, and they’re playing their championship game at Coca Cola Stadium.
“The SOL – we couldn’t get enough teams to come out and play in something that, to me, was awesome for the kids. It gave closure to every one of my kids, and talking to the other teams, they were all so excited to be here and have this sort of thing happen.”