by Tom Utescher
Last Wednesday’s Pa. Independent Schools softball tournament game at Springside was largely a pitchers’ battle, with the first two batters in the bottom of the fourth inning deciding the contest in favor of the Lions.
The catcher for visiting Friends Central dropped a strike-three ball on Springside senior Asha Deane to lead off the frame, and she reached first safely thanks to an errant throw down the line by the Phoenix. Alexis Giovinazzo, the Lions’ junior shortstop and number three hitter, smashed a home run to left centerfield, and the Lions (12-6 overall) made the resulting 2-0 lead stand up the rest of the way against FC (9-5).
The two teams had finished third in their respective leagues, the Girls Inter-Ac and the Friends Schools League. Inter-Ac champion Agnes Irwin elected not to participate in the Indy tournament.
Friends Central had a 5-4 edge in hits in Wednesday’s game, but the Lions played error-free defense behind sophomore pitcher Michelle Cybularz, who struck out three Phoenix batters and walked one. FC’s senior hurler, Caroline Satalof, also gave up one base-on-balls, and she accumulated six strike-outs against the host team.
Prior to Giovinazzo’s two-run blast, Springside only got 10 batters up to the plate over the first three innings. Junior Michelle Boggs singled up the middle with one out in the third, but a strike-out and a fly to centerfield followed.
Leading off the fifth, Friends Central’s Isabelle Nardi singled and then went to second on a sacrifice bunt, becoming the first Phoenix player to make it past first base. She was then tagged out trying to steal third, as Springside catcher Aly Markey gunned the ball to third baseman Brenna Coll.
Markey then led off the bottom half with a single down the first base line, but when Boggs and Kelsea Brewer each hit grounders to the left side of the infield, FC got the force-out at second base both times.
Deane came close to scoring a second run for the Lions in the sixth inning, starting out with a single down the right field line and then reaching second when Giovinazzo walked. The two runners stole ahead to second and third while the next two batters struck out, and on a ball put in play by Resnya Hughes the Phoenix tagged out Deane as she tried to score.
Springside still led by just two runs, and the home crowd grew concerned when, with one out in the top of the seventh, a walk followed by a single from Nardi put the potential tying run on base. The Lions’ Giovinazzo gobbled up a ground ball and threw to third for a force-out on the next play, then on a grounder that was hit a little closer to third, Coll fielded the ball and Giovinazzo covered the bag for the final out of the game.
UPDATE – Springside’s stay in the tournament ended on Thursday with a 10-6 semifinal loss to host Abington Friends, the Friends Schools League champ.