North Penn defeated Haverford to capture the program’s fourth state title.
#1-5 NORTH PENN 11, #1-3 HAVERFORD 0
Penn State University’s Beard Field – turned into the Knights very own field of dreams on Thursday - was deserted. Captured forever in their memories were the tears, the laughter and the emotions when the final out was recorded and they converged for a dog pile to celebrate their state title win.
The Knights - gold medals draped around their necks - were still savoring every moment of the magical end to their remarkable journey.
“This is staying on,” said Annabelle Smink, clutching the medal. “I’m not letting go of this - this is gold.”
On a night when the Knights play was nothing short of golden, the sophomore third baseman was one of many players to come up big. Her base hit to left field in the first inning after Julia Shearer drew a leadoff walk and stole second gave the Knights a lead they would not lose.
“That meant everything,” Smink said of getting on the scoreboard early. “It started all the energy there and drove us into those next 10 runs.”
Smink’s defensive play in the bottom of the inning with a runner on third – faking a throw to second and then tagging the base runner who bought the fake - set the tone for a glittering defensive performance by the Knights,
“To me, the biggest play of the game was Annabelle Smink’s play at third base,” coach Rick Torresani said. “They could have come back and tied it up. We work on that, but a sophomore thinking in a big game like this to do it, and she did it and caught the girl off third, and that set them down for that inning.”
It turned out to be Haverford’s most legitimate scoring threat of the night, thanks in no small part to the effort of Mady Volpe in the circle and the stellar player of her teammates behind her.
“We got a double play – how many double plays do you see in a championship game,” Torresani said of the second-to-short-to first double play turned to perfection by Rachel Lowry to Sophia Collins to Brianna Wilmot in the fourth inning after the Fords drew a leadoff walk.
Smink also made a leaping grab of a bunt popped in the air to lead off the third inning. The Knights’ defensive effort was in direct contrast to the last meeting between the two teams in a district quarterfinal loss that saw the Fords score four unearned runs.
Volpe – an almost perpetual smile on her face during Thursday’s game – tossed her sixth straight shutout of the postseason, allowing two hits while striking out seven. She did walk four and hit a pair of batters but always came up with the big pitch when it mattered most and allowed just two hits out of the infield.
“It’s just having fun,” Volpe said. “Knowing that it’s just a game and at the end of the day, it’s going out with a smile on your face and being unfazed with anything that comes up. I love having runners on base when I’m pitching because I use the pressure for the good.”
The Knights gave Volpe plenty of support. They benefitted from a pair of bases-loaded walks to plate two runs in the second and added two more in the fourth. Collins got the inning started by ripping a triple to left center, and several Ford miscues allowed the Knights to score two unearned runs to go on top 5-0.
In the sixth inning, Shearer ignited the crowd when she smashed a no-doubt-about-it solo home run near the 220-foot sign in center field.
“Right off the bat it felt really good,” said Shearer, who reached base all five trips to the plate, scoring four runs and driving in four. “I knew it was gone, and it got me so pumped up. It was so in the moment – this is really happening right now. It was amazing. I was so excited.”
“That was a shot,” Torresani said. “She hit that way over the fence. She came around the bases yelling and screaming and that electrified everybody in the dugout.”
Hitting turned out to be contagious, and the Knights pounded out six hits in a five-run seventh. The inning featured singles by Wilmot, Volpe, DiGiuseppe (RBI) and Collins, a sacrifice fly by Lowry, a two-run double to left center by Shearer and a booming triple to right by Sarah Sabocsik.
Volpe retired the Fords in order in the seventh, and the 2021 PIAA 6A state title – the program’s fourth and first since 1985 – belonged to the Knights.
“I never thought this would happen,” Shearer said. “It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It’s just the best feeling.
“Last year was really disappointing because we had such a great team. Even before the season, we bonded so well. Hearing that our season was cancelled was really hard. I feel as though we could have gone really far last year.”
“It’s so surreal that it’s actually happening,” Collins said. “We owed them one.”
“I’m just so happy,” Volpe said. “I’m really looking forward to what the underclassmen will do next year and the years after.”
“This team is everything to me,” Smink said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do without these (seniors) next year. The sophomores, the juniors – they’re my best friends. This team is really going to be missed.”
North Penn 11, Haverford 0
North Penn (11) – Julia Shearer cf 3-4-2-4; Sarah Sabocsik c 4-0-1-1; Annabelle Smink 3b 3-0-1-2; Marissa Palumbo ph 1-0-0-0; Gianna Cimino dp 4-0-0-0; Brianna Wilmot 1b 4-0-01-0; Mackenzie Gizankis pr 0-1-0-0; Mady Volpe 4-0-2-0; Jaclyn Diaz pr 0-2-0-0; Carley DiGiuseppe lf 3-2-1-1; Sophia Collins ss 4-2-2-0; Rachel Lowry 2b 3-0-1-1; Reyna Doherty rf 0-0-0-0; TOTALS 33-11-11-9.
Haverford (0) – Brooke McKeown cf 3-0-2-0; Tess Smiley ss 0-0-0-0; Kerri McCallum 3b 2-0-0-0; Haley Greenwald c 2-0-0-0; Sarah Hubley pr 0-0-0-0; Emma Taylor p 3-0-0-0; Ava Cohen lf 3-0-0-0; Rachel Yocom rf 3-0-0-0; Claudia Stock dp 2-0-0-0; Camryn Casadel 1b 0-0-0-0; TOTALS 20-0-2-0.
North Penn 120 201 5 11-11-1
Haverford 000 000 0 0-2-3
North Penn ip h r er bb so Haverford ip h r er bb
Mady Volpe (W) 7.0 2 0 0 4 7 Emma Taylor (L) 7.0 11 11 9 6
WP – Taylor. HBP – by Taylor (DiGiuseppe); by Volpe (Greenwald); by Volpe (McCallum).
Volpe has season for the ages – Mady Volpe’s had her share of memorable moments during a dazzling high school career. The senior standout might have a tough time topping the emotions she was feeling after Thursday’s state title win.
In the giddy postgame celebration in the pitching circle she had owned, Volpe and coach Rick Torresani exchanged an emotional hug.
“I told myself I wasn’t going to cry, but I did cry a little,” the Knights’ senior ace said. “Coach has built such a positive and a family-like program. He’s awesome. He has done a tremendous job – and the rest of the coaching staff as well.”
Volpe’s numbers this season are staggering. Thursday’s shutout was her 18th of the season. She finished the year with 335 strikeouts in 174 innings pitched.
Sophomore Sarah Sabocsik – who picked a runner off first base in the second inning - anchored the Knights behind home plate.
“It’s been amazing,” the sophomore catcher said. “She made it easy. She puts the ball in every spot that was given to her.”
The process of passing the torch to Volpe’s heir apparent, Julia Shearer, has begun.
“I was talking with Julia after the game – I have this superstition, and I get this game day lunch before every game, and Julia walked up to me and said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to keep that along with me,’” Volpe said.
“She’s going to follow Mady next year as a pitcher,” Torresani said. “She’s a very good pitcher, and with her attitude and the way the girls rally around her like they do for Mady, it’s going to be a very interesting season next year too.”
This one’s for you – There’s no mistaking Thursday’s state title win was a team win, but for the team’s four seniors- Carley DiGiuseppe, Rachel Lowry, Marissa Palumbo and Mady Volpe, it was especially significant.
“We went from seventh grade - softball is simple, it’s fun, it’s all about getting to know people in your middle school and teammates you might have in high school,” DiGiuseppe said. “So then we make it through all the way to high school, and we’re seniors, and time went so fast.
“Getting to win a state championship as seniors together from then to now is just the most amazing feeling ever. The only way to describe this team is a family. I can’t even put the feeling into words.”
“It’s just crazy,” Lowry said. “Usually most people lose their last game, but we were able to win our last game. Being seniors and going out with a bang - it’s just amazing. These people are my best friends.”
The significance of this season to a senior class that paid a high price for the COVID-19 pandemic was not lost on the underclassmen.
“This is really only their third year playing because we missed last year, so we wanted to go out with a bang for them because they’ve done so much for us,” Sophia Collins said.
For those who’ve gone before – Amanda Greaney never had a chance to compete in a state championship game. The 2020 North Penn grad still hasn’t, but she along with fellow alums Victoria Juckniewitz, Abbey Picozzi, Madison Reilly and Madison Stotler were on the field to celebrate with their former teammates after Thursday’s historic state title win.
“Seeing them made me emotional,” sophomore Annabelle Smink said. “I didn’t get to play with them last year. It was really good to see them.”
“Seeing them in the stands made me just want to win it even more for them,” senior Carley DiGiuseppe said. “We definitely would have gone far – if not here – with last year’s team because we had great chemistry with them and a great team. Winning with them here today, it made everything 10 times better.”
Greaney acknowledged that watching from the stands was a different feeling.
“But when we walked on this grass and I looked at my class and said, ‘Look, we made it…kind of,’” Greaney said. “That team was just like our family. We practiced with them, we grew with them - they took control, did it on their own. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
“It would have felt like a part of us was missing if they weren’t here,” Palumbo said. “They all pushed us to be the best we could be.”