There’s a decidedly different look and feel about this year’s Pennridge softball team.
For starters, there’s an almost festive atmosphere at home games with a public address announcer - Sellersville Belles coach Paul Koehler – introducing the players and the addition of music between innings.
But while that stuff is a nice addition, that’s just window dressing. The biggest difference is the way the Rams have been performing between the white lines under first-year coach Scott Didra, who coached Emmaus from 1986-93 and led the Green Hornets to a district crown.
The Rams appear to have bought into Didra’s coaching philosophy.
They are 4-1 in league play and 6-2 overall – a far cry from last year’s 4-16 season.
“It’s been exciting, no doubt,” Didra said. “The girls are not quitters. We tried to get it into their heads from the very beginning that they would not quit.”
The Rams have heeded their coach’s advice.
Witness only last Thursday’s 9-7 win over Souderton in eight innings. The Rams trailed by as many as four and battled back not once or twice but three times for the big win.
“That was huge,” Didra said. “I told them, ‘I want you guys to prove not only to yourselves but to everyone else that you are going to be a different team this year and show that you can come back.’
“Boy, talk about comebacks. We came back three times.”
In the win, the Rams, whose only league loss came at the hands of Central Bucks South, hammered out 16 hits – led by the four-hit effort of Emily Hofmann. Teammates Alicia Detweiler and Lauren Wilson both had three hits with Detweiler contributing a home run. Kate Wacyk contributed a triple.
Kelsey Detweiler worked the final five and two-thirds innings to earn the win on the mound.
“The whole team won that game,” Didra said. “That was a team effort. Every single kid on the bench played except for Jess Youk, who sprained her ankle previously in a practice.”
Alicia Detweiler has been productive hitting out of the leadoff spot, drawing walks and hitting at a .400 clip. She leads the team in RBIs.
“That’s one of the things we were concerned about moving her to the leadoff spot because she has so much power,” Didra said. “I kind of stacked the bottom of the order with speed so when they would get on, she could be the one to hit them in.
“We have a pretty steady lineup going one through nine.”
Wacyk, who is bound for Hartford on a softball scholarship, anchors the Rams behind the plate.
“She commands the game behind the plate and is an excellent shortstop,” Didra said. “I have been using her as a key part of the battery because she can run the show back there, and she’s scary at the plate. She hasn’t been getting too many good pitches to hit because everyone knows her.”
Kelsey Detweiler is hitting .400 and playing shortstop. She also has three wins on the mound, splitting time with Erica Schmale.
“I can put her anywhere,” Didra said.
When Detweiler goes to the mound, Wacyk moves to short and freshman Emily Hofmann takes over catching duties. Hofmann, the Rams’ first baseman, is hitting .375.
“She has been a really key player as a freshman,” Didra said. “I put her behind the plate a couple of times and really didn’t miss a beat as far as receiving the ball.”
Wilson, who overcame an ACL injury, joins Alicia and Kelsey Detweiler and Wacyk as captains, and a key to the team’s success is a combination of outstanding leadership as well as versatility and depth.
“They’re comfortable no matter where we put them,” Didra said.
Redskins rolling – Neshaminy coach Kathy Houser knew her team was better than last year’s 10-10 record suggested, something the Redskins proved when they extended eventual district champion Owen J. Roberts to the limit before falling 4-3 in the second round of districts.
“It was one of those roller coaster years,” Houser said.
If the Redskins’ coach thought her team was going to sneak up on anyone this season, that notion went out the window when The Trentonian dubbed the Redskins the ‘team to beat’ in a two-page spread previewing the 2009 season.
“Our whole approach this year was – ‘You have that name on your chest. Here we go. Let’s do it,’” Houser said. “There is no excuse. There is no, ‘Oh, we’re young.’ We have that experience already, and we’re really excited.”
With good reason.
The Redskins – who lost just two players from last year’s team to graduation - burst out of the starting gate to a 5-0 record (3-0 SOL). With just one senior starter, the Redskins are built around an outstanding core of juniors, many of whom have been starting since they were freshmen.
With just 13 players on the roster, Houser’s goal is to play every player in every game.
“It’s happened so far in four games,” she said.
Sophomore pitcher Sarah McGowan gave glimpses of greatness as a freshman when she compiled an impressive 8-4 mark. She is one of three pitchers Houser has been rotating so far this season, and in last week’s 5-4 win over Council Rock North, all three saw action with Samantha Bender starting and McGowan working the final two frames.
“It’s kind of like those Phillies last year where everybody did it,” Houser said.
The Redskins already boast an impressive 8-5 come-from-behind win over Abington, rallying from a 5-0 deficit for the win.
“The good news was we fought back, but that was a good lesson,” Houser said. “We need to do it right from the beginning.”
The Redskins are getting contributions from a lot of players. Senior Jackie Franzen anchors the Redskins behind the plate. Junior shortstop Christina Udris, a three-year starter, is hitting .545. Junior first baseman Erin Quense, a two-year starter, is hitting at a .500 clip. Switch hitting sophomore second baseman Courtney Clee bats out of the number two spot. Junior Samantha Creamer (outfield) bats leadoff, and Kelsey Ryan is a three-year starter at third base.
The Redskins will face Truman on Thursday in a make-up game and have a showdown with neighboring Pennsbury next Tuesday.
Maidens hit with injury bug – North Penn is rolling along with a dazzling 5-0 record (3-0 SOL), but the season has not been without its setbacks.
The Maidens lost standout first baseman Stephanie Farrar for the season. The sweet-swinging junior broke her wrist in a collision during the Maidens’ showdown with defending state champion Hatboro-Horsham.
It was Farrar’s two-run double in the bottom of the sixth that put the Maidens on top 5-4. They won by that same score.
“It was devastating,” coach Rick Torresani said of Farrar’s injury.
The Maidens’ coach went on to acknowledge the significance of his team’s win over the Hatters.
“We gave up four runs in one inning on two errors, and then they fought back,” Torresani said. “That was huge.
“The girls knew it was a big game. They knew if they want to get to where they want to go, they need to beat teams like that.”
In their game against the Hatters, the Maidens also lost leftfielder Danielle Kalis – who also happens to be their back-up first baseman. Kalis dislocated her finger sliding into home and will be sidelined for three weeks.
According to Torrsani, plans are to move Janelle Stawasz from second to first with designated player Alyssa Campbell inserted into the lineup at second. Pitcher Kellianna Bradstreet will hit for herself. Senior Sam Reeves is a candidate to play left field while Kalis is out of action.
The Maidens won their only game since then, eking out a 2-1 win over Central Bucks West. Campbell was 3-for-4 with the game-winning RBI.
“The kids played so well,” Torresani said. “We had to move so many people around, and defensively, we were unbelievable. Kellianna pitched another great game.
“They have really been working hard.”
A key for the Maidens will be the performances of their veterans – Campbell, Stawasz and Cari Anderson. Anderson, the Maidens’ Iona-bound catcher, is hitting .600.
“It all comes down to pitching, and Kellianna is doing a great job,” Torresani said.
The Maidens will face Central Bucks South on Friday in a battle of the conference’s lone undefeated squads.
Tigers roar out of gate – Gretchen Cammiso knew that Truman had a whole lot more talent than its 2007 record of 1-13 record suggested. In her first year at the helm last year, the former Pennsbury standout – then Truman’s third coach in three years – led the Tigers to a 7-7 mark.
“I knew there was more talent, and I would listen to them talk about their frustrations when I was teaching there,” the Tigers’ coach said.
Cammiso’s first order of business was changing the mindset of the players.
“Our main focus was to instill in them the idea that hard work and attitude with the belief you’re capable of winning would start to get us over the hump,” she said. “Because of a string of unsuccessful seasons – and unfortunately a lot of the athletic teams at Truman are not very successful, there was that culture of losing where it became, ‘We tried. That’s what happens here.’
“We only have two or three girls on travel teams where everybody else has pretty much their entire roster playing travel, and I told them going in we’re going to have to work twice or three times as hard as every other team and they needed to believe they can do it. Going from 1-13 to 7-7, they were ecstatic, and they started to believe.”
This year, the Tigers have set their goals even higher with aspirations to earn a berth in districts.
“They started working earlier, and they started working harder than we have in previous years,” Cammiso said. “I have a good core of returning players that I knew we could build on.
“I checked out the middle school teams and had my eye on some incoming sophomores that I really thought could help us out. So far those sophomores and one freshman have really stepped up. We picked up on the success we started last year and brought that in with a new intensity. They walk around with a new confidence.”
A confidence that is well-founded.
So far, the Tigers are 3-0 in SOL play, and in those three wins, the Tigers have outscored their opponents 34-2. Overall, the Tigers sport a 4-1 mark with their only loss coming at the hands of Norristown when ace Rachael Alligood was not on the mound.
Alligood is the ‘X’ factor, boasting no-hitters in wins over Council Rock North and Bensalem (in an abbreviated four-inning game). She is also hitting at a torrid .800 clip with 10 RBIs.
Shortstop Tina Coffman is the only senior starter in the lineup, but she’s making her presence felt, hitting .500 with nine RBIs. Sophomore Ashley Black, the Tigers’ returning second baseman, is hitting .417.
One of the most pleasant surprises has been the play of sophomore catcher Stevie Van Schaick.
“That was the biggest question mark we had going into this year,” said Cammiso, who lost her four-year varsity catcher to graduation. “I knew she needed a lot of work, and she knew she needed a lot of work, but she is tough.
“She’s a kid who is diving all during practice. We had a lot of talks – are you up for this? We talked about the mental and physical aspects of it. She signed on. She’s put in a lot of hard work, and she and Rachael are close friends. That was huge, not to mention she was an added bat.”
Van Schaick is hitting .375.
“Top to bottom I feel our hitting lineup is so much stronger than last year,” Cammiso said. “Last year we had to keep pushing them to push themselves because they weren’t used to it. This year they’re more self-motivated. The returning players have brought that to the new players, and they’re buying in. It’s starting to come together.”
The Tigers will be tested this week when they play Neshaminy and Pennsbury in back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday.
SOS.com honor roll (See separate file)
SOS.com’s Fab Five (plus two)
1. Central Bucks South (7-0)
2. Pennsbury (4-0)
3. North Penn (5-0)
4. Neshaminy (5-0)
5. Abington (5-1), Harry S. Truman (4-1), Hatboro (3-1)
Others to watch: Pennridge (6-2), Norristown (6-2)