by Tom Utescher
“Too little, too late,” “Right place, wrong time.” You could apply a number of traditional sports clichés to Penn Charter’s softball experience at Episcopal Academy last Thursday afternoon, when the visiting Quakers left 11 runners on base and didn’t score most of their runs until the top of the seventh inning of a 6-3 loss to the Churchwomen.
On their home field back in the middle of April, the Quakers had pommeled Episcopal, 14-3, but by winning the rematch EA caught up with Charter in the Girls Inter-Ac League standings as each club came away with a 6-4 record. PC was 11-8 overall, and the Churchwomen improved to 15-7.
In the circle, PC junior Jess Drossner (2BB) and Episcopal freshman Alex Viscusi (1BB) each collected five strike-outs, and neither gave up a walk until her final inning of work. The visitors outhit EA 9-3, but the blows didn’t fall in a profitable sequence.
PC coach “Doc” Mittica pointed out, “We couldn’t get the breaks that we needed, and in that one inning early in the game we had a couple errors in a row and gave up three runs. It’s not the number of errors that kills you, it’s the number of errors in a row.”
In their first two turns at bat, the Quakers got singles from seniors Danielle Sienko and Emma Cataldi, but left a total of four runners on base. Hitless in the first frame, Episcopal had Elizabeth Capper single down the right field line with one out in the bottom of the second. Errant throws by PC on each of the next two plays got one run across, then another came in on a double steal and a third went on the board thanks to a passed ball.
The visitors got one back at the top of the third, which began with a single by Kayla Quinn. The freshman was tagged out trying to make third base when Sienko singled, but Sienko wound up on second. She stole third and then scored on a hit to centerfield by senior classman Emily Kurtz.
Regrouping after their second-inning miscues, Drossner and the PC defense sent the home team down in order in the third, fourth, and fifth frame, but the Quakers couldn’t scrape up any runs on offense.
Things grew particularly frustrating in the top of the fifth. To start off, an error got Sienko to first, and she moved ahead on a single to left center by Kurtz. Sophomore Kristina Kubach hit the ball to the left side and Sienko was tagged out in the baseline between second and third.
Charter still had two baserunners, and then junior Carly Zurcher’s hit to left field loaded the bases. EA pocketed a grounder off the bat of Drossner and got the force at home for the second out, then a line-out to first baseman Bernadette Tankle retired the side, with three runners left stranded.
For the first and only time during the afternoon, PC’s hitters went down one-two-three at the top of the sixth, and Episcopal doubled its total in the bottom half with three more runs. With one out, the Churchwomen drew back-to-back walks, setting up an RBI double to left center by Tankle. Capper put a grounder in play and the Quakers sent the ball home for a tag at the plate, but their catcher, Kubach, had her knee injured on the successful slide by the Episcopal baserunner.
Sienko, Charter’s shortstop, filled in behind the plate.
“Danielle loves to catch,” Mittica revealed after the game. “She already asked me ‘Can I catch tomorrow?’ She dominates with her arm.”
As play resumed, a line drive single through the right side by Carolyn Giles drove in the final run for the home team, but when Giles tried to steal second she was gunned down by Sienko for the second out. Drossner closed out the side with a strike-out, but the Quakers’ task had become much tougher as they came up to bat for the final time at the top of the seventh.
Now down 6-1, the visitors started out well, as Sienko was hit by a pitch to get on base. She stole second and then scored on a double to left center by the reliable Kurtz. Sophomore Marissa Samuels grounded out to the pitcher, but when the Churchwomen tried to prevent Kurtz from reaching third, they threw the ball out of play and the senior scored to make it 6-3.
Another ground-out to EA’s Viscusi tightened the screws on the visitors, but there was a brief reprieve as Drossner waited out a walk. She then became the 11th stranded baserunner for Charter, as a ground-out to the second baseman ended the game.
“Most of the season, we were able to get a big hit when we needed one, but not today,” Mittica summed up. “Their pitcher is a freshman and she’s improved a lot since the first time we played them. She pitched a good game, and I thought Jess pitched a good game, too.”