by Tom Utescher
The Penn Charter players had the cake made, and they brought it to Friday’s road game. Still, it wasn’t until the latter stages of last Friday’s Inter-Ac softball contest at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy that the visiting Quakers were certain they’d be celebrating coach Donald “Doc” Mittica’s 300th win as head of the PC program.
Charter had secured a 10-0 mercy-rule victory over the Blue Devils when the teams played in early April during the first round of league games, but in last week’s May Day rematch the Quakers held a modest 3-1 advantage at the end of three innings.
When the visitors piled on six runs in the top of the fourth, they began to figuratively taste the icing on their commemorative gateau. SCH went down battling, but in the end PC took away a 10-5 win that raised the team’s record to 6-0 in the Inter-Ac and 17-1 overall.
Penn Charter senior Kayla Quinn pitched a complete game and struck out eight batters while giving up six walks and seven hits. Junior Madi Saltzman threw the first six innings for SCH (3-4 league, 6-5 overall) and compiled three strike-outs along with three walks and 12 hits. Blue Devils freshman Kayla McTamney came in for the seventh frame to face the last four visiting batters. One reached first on an error, and the other three flew out, lined out, and grounded out.
Penn Charter’s squad was at full strength for Friday’s encounter, while the Blue Devils had an injury to senior right fielder Emily Chicchi. McNamey started in her stead in the outfield before stepping into the circle for the final inning.
PC sophomore Brigitte Gutpelet led off the game with a bunt single, then reached third on a steal and then a ground-out by Quinn. She scored the visitors’ first run on a double deep to left center by her classmate Angela Zeidler, but later the Quakers would leave the bases loaded.
In its next batting stint, PC filled the bases with no outs on a single by sophomore Emily Zurcher, a bunt by junior Ayanna Matthews, and a walk drawn by Gutpelet. SCH dispelled some of this threat on the next play, when senior first baseman Brigit McDermott snagged a line-drive and doubled up Gutpelet at first. PC got one run home thanks to a hit to left by junior Eileen Hennessey, then the third out came on a fly ball to the same side of the outfield.
Given the number of PC baserunners in the first two frames, the Blue Devils did a pretty good job of damage control, but they couldn’t get a lot going on the offensive end. Senior Kathleen Foley singled in the first and freshman Rachel Kazlauskas doubled in the second, but both were left high and dry.
Springside Chestnut Hill quickly rang up two outs on the visitors at the top of the third, but then the Devils gave up a long shot down the left field line to Zoe Neefe. The Charter junior ended up on third thanks to a glitch in SCH’s relay from the outfield. She would score on a single between first and second by Zurcher to give the visitors a 3-0 lead, but the home team was able to get on the board in the bottom half.
With one out, senior shortstop Julia Moriarty and Saltzman both came through with base hits. Showing good discipline at the plate, McDermott and Kazlauskas each waited out a walk, first loading the bases and then forcing home a run.
A full three innings in, the tally was 3-1, but there was a feeling that the Blue Devils were giving their all trying to buttress and plug a fragile dam that was under strain. The runs came flooding through in the top of the fourth.
Despite PC singles by Quinn and freshman Grace Stansfield, with an error and a hit batter thrown into the mix, the Blue Devils had only given up one run by the time they secured a second out. The bases were loaded, though, and a walk nudged Charter’s lead up to 5-1.
The next batter, Matthews, undercut the ball, but the Blue Devils not only failed to field her pop-up just out of the infield on the right side, they also bobbled and booted the ball out into right field. All three baserunners reached the plate, and Matthews would later score herself on Quinn’s second hit of the inning.
The Quakers now led 9-1, but SCH was able to stage a modest two-out rally in the bottom of the fourth. Foley walked and made second on a single by Moriarty, then junior Ashley Lubisky drove an RBI hit to right field, about 10 feet inside the line. Another run came home on a wild pitch, and it was 9-3 going into the fifth.
Following PC’s six-run outburst, the Blue Devils tightened up defensively in the top half of round five and held Charter scoreless for the first time in the game. However, in both the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings, the home team’s batters went down in order. The Quakers collected their final run in the sixth, when Matthews doubled deep to left center, advanced on a wild pitch, and was driven in by Quinn with a single through the right side of the infield.
McTamney came in to pitch for the hosts as the seventh chapter began, and immediately she got a big play from her defense as Foley dashed and extended her glove to grab Stansfield’s strong fly to right center. A throwing error helped put PC sophomore pinch hitter Abby Cohen on first base, but the Blue Devils dispatched the last two batters.
The Devils didn’t go down without making a little noise in the bottom of the seventh. Moriarty walked on to start things off, and with one out she ambled around to third thanks to some Charter miscues. Saltzman also walked, and then she reached second on a wild pitch that allowed Moriarty to score.
After a walk to McDermott and a single by Kazlauskas loaded the bases, the last SCH run scored as McTamney grounded out to Charter’s second baseman, Gutpelet. PC’s Quinn then ended the game with a strike-out.
The Blue Devils at least had the satisfaction of knowing they’d scored more runs on Charter than anyone else in the league up to that point; Germantown Academy had managed four during a 10-run loss in mid-April.
Over in the visiting dugout, Quinn was slicing and serving Doc Mittica’s milestone cake. The Lafayette Hill chiropractor is the only coach that the Quakers have ever known. He helped launch the Penn Charter softball program back in 1992, and the very first team his ballclub beat came from the old Springside School.