by Tom Utescher
Germantown Friends has gotten off to one of its best starts in softball that anyone can remember, providing some drama for the fans along the way.
In a non-league outing at home last Wednesday, the Tigers gave up an early lead against the visiting Baldwin School Bears, and then scored a late run to send the game into extra innings at 5-5. An eighth frame still didn’t break the tie, but four runs in the bottom of the ninth finally secured a 10-9 victory for GFS, which improved to 5-1 overall.
Germantown outhit the Bears, 12-10, and freshman pitcher Lizzie Becker recorded the victory with three strike outs and one base on balls.
A week earlier, the Tigers pulled off a one-run win that was a lot more meaningful, topping perennial Friends Schools League title contender Abington Friends, 5-4. In that game, Becker rolled up 15 strike-outs and drove in the winning run, as well.
The day after that emotional outing, GFS suffered its only setback so far this spring. The Tigers faced Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, and the Blue Devils, smarting from a loss to Penn Charter in their league opener a day earlier, pounded out a 19-5 victory.
In the middle of last week the Tigers again played back-to-back games, this time in unseasonably warm weather, but now they came through unscathed. The day before the Baldwin bout, Germantown ran its league record to 3-0 by drubbing Shipley School, 16-5. Junior pitcher Becca Bateman picked up that win to go 2-0 for the season, while Becker improved to 3-1 the following afternoon.
GFS, whose other FSL win came against Academy of the New Church (13-5), squares off this week with Friends Central, the defending league champion.
Last Wednesday, Becker singled in the third of the three runs that GFS scored against Baldwin in the bottom of the first inning. After singles by sophomore Liana Spiro and junior Maddie Andrews, the first run came home on a double steal, and then junior clean-up hitter Rachel Allison whacked an RBI triple to right centerfield.
Baldwin got on the board at the top of the third, but the inning ended with GFS up 4-1 after another RBI triple by Allison. Senior Eden Beschen had gotten on base earlier when Baldwin couldn’t cleanly field her grounder to the left side.
Becker and company sent the Bears down in order in the fourth stanza and started the top of the fifth with a strike-out. However, a walk, a successful bunt, and a pair of base hits helped the visitors chalk up three runs, tying the affair at 4-4. Next time up, Baldwin edged ahead, 5-4, on a bases-loaded single with one out. With the bags still full, GFS was in a jam, but shortstop Andrews got a put-out on a subsequent force-out at home, and Becker gloved a pop-up to end the threat entirely.
Germantown drew even in the bottom of the sixth, when Allison walked to start things off. A steal to second base then set the stage for an RBI hit to left field by senior Erica Heinz. After a scoreless seventh stanza, the game proceeded to extra innings, where each batting team routinely starts out with a runner already positioned on second base.
Each of the ballclubs scored once in the eighth, then GFS got into a predicament when the Bears took a 9-6 lead in the top of the ninth inning.
For the start of the home half, sophomore Sophie Trotto was the player who started out on second, then she went to third on a wild pitch and scored when senior Rebecca Blaich lined out deep to centerfield. The same part of the outfield was targeted by Isabelle Linguiti and sophomore Hannah Safford, who both got base hits. Beschen directed an RBI single to right field, which made it 9-8 with Tigers on first and third base.
A GFS attempt to steal second caused Baldwin to toss the ball past the bag and into the outfield, allowing the lead runner to score the tying run while Andrews, the batter, waited near the plate.
After a team conference around the pitcher’s circle, Baldwin elected to walk both Andrews and Allison intentionally, loading the bases. With the infielders pushed way up, the Bears challenged Becker to beat them, and she did, lining the ball over the head of the shortstop and driving home the Tigers’ 10th run to end the game.