by Tom Utescher
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy secured at least a tie for the 2017 Inter-Ac League softball title last Thursday afternoon, cruising past visiting Baldwin School in a 12-0 mercy-rule contest that went four-and-a-half innings.
Improving to 13-3 overall, the Blue Devils also raised their league record to 9-1, so with only games against Germantown Academy and Notre Dame left to play, they’ll end up with no more than three losses, the same number that the Academy of Notre Dame and defending champ Penn Charter already have.
SCH split in its home/away series with Penn Charter and beat resurgent Notre Dame the first time out, 7-5. The Blue Devils swept Episcopal Academy (the 2015 Inter-Ac co-champ with PC), although the second win didn’t some easily, at 2-1. Coming into the week, PC had lost one game each to SCH and Notre Dame, but the Quakers fell to the Irish a second time on Wednesday, 7-1. With a third league setback, Charter slipped into a tie in the loss column with Notre Dame, which had the one loss to SCH and had been swept by Episcopal.
“We’ve had some close games, but now we’re starting to get the spark back,” SCH head coach Stephanie Mill said after the Baldwin game. “That’s good because we have a busy couple of weeks ahead of us. I don’t think this team’s going to let up; when we found out at the end of practice yesterday that Penn Charter lost to Notre Dame the second time, the girls wanted to go back out and get more reps. They’ve got the right attitude, especially for a young team.”
The Blue Devils, who have six freshmen on the varsity roster and no seniors, have received the top seed for the upcoming Pennsylvania Independent Schools tournament. They dispatched Baldwin last Thursday with another strong performance in the circle by Kayla McTamney. The junior pitcher and the fielders around her only allowed the minimum of 12 Baldwin batters up to the plate over the first four innings, and she finished with five strike-outs while yielding no walks.
The visiting Bears officially got one hit in the fifth, on a ball hit relatively softly to the left side. SCH did not have the third baseman try to cut off the ball and it took a slow roll fairly deep into the shortstop’s territory, where even the rocket arm of sophomore Mo’ne Davis couldn’t deliver the ball to first base in time to nail the batter. The previous Bear at bat had been hit by a pitch, so Baldwin wound up with runners on first and second with no outs. No matter, because McTamney sewed up her shutout by striking out the next three batters.
Baldwin actually fielded the ball well for a team that would leave the field still in search of its first win in the league. Due to a postponement, the Bears had not yet played either of their games against GA, which is in a similar situation this spring.
On Thursday, the Blue Devils’ defense was dialed in from the outset as Baldwin came up to bat for the first time. On a grounder hit up the middle that was heading just to the right of second base, sophomore second baseman Steph DeAngelis stretched out on a dive to stop the ball and scrambled to her feet in time to get the ball over to freshman first baseman Katie Reagan for the out.
Next, Davis fielded a ball at short and rifled it across the infield for the second out. DeAngelis gloved a pop-up to retire the side, then she stepped to the plate as the Blue Devils’ lead-off batter in the bottom of the inning. Drawing a walk and then moving all the way around to third on a sacrifice bunt by Davis, DeAngelis scored the game’s first run on a ground-out to short by junior Rachel Kazlauskas.
Springside Chestnut Hill sent the Bryn Mawr bunch down in order once more at the top of the second, then started the bottom half with a fly ball for an out and a walk by junior Lucy Lamb. A strike-out gave Baldwin a second out, but the SCH baserunner reached second on the play and then moved to third on a wild pitch. When freshman Erin Fennessy walked on, the Bears dozed off for a few moments and SCH scored from third to make it 2-0.
After the visitors went three-up, three-down in their half of the third, SCH made its major offensive push. The top of the order was up again, and after waiting out a walk, DeAngelis scored on a triple that Davis drove deep into right center. Davis came home herself on a passed ball just before the next batter grounded out.
SCH sophomore Colebe Oliver drew a walk, and then she was alert enough to hustle back to first when Baldwin made a good catch on a line drive by Reagan. Already up 4-0, the Blue Devils were in a position to keep scoring with two outs.
Patient at the plate, they loaded the bases as Lamb and McTamney both walked on, setting the stage for a hard slap up the middle by Fennessy that scored two runs. A double steal netted SCH a seventh run with the trailing runner sliding safely into second, and then an RBI single through the right side by sophomore Sena Hoessou-Adin had the home team up 8-0 after three innings of play.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, it looked like Baldwin would get its first player on base for the game when there was a low throw to first on a grounder. However, the Blue Devils kept the ball in play and DeAngleis then ran down the batter between first and second for the third out.
On the flip side of the inning, walks to Davis and Reagan sandwiched around a single by Oliver had the bases loaded for SCH with one out. A sac fly deep to centerfield by Lamb brought one Blue Devil home and moved the others to second and third. McTamney then boosted her team over the ten-run mercy rule mark with a two-run double to center that made it 11-0. She returned to the plate herself with what would be the game’s final run thanks to a hit by freshman Megan McNesby.
As noted earlier, Baldwin got its first two batters on base in the top of the fifth before McTamney fanned the next three to end the game. Springside Chestnut Hill ended up with a relatively modest total of six hits, but the Devils ran the bases well and benefitted from eight walks issued by Baldwin.
McTamney is far-and-away the team’s top pitcher and the Blue Devils’ prospects would change considerably without her, but there isn’t a great deal of concern about her durability.
“She’s very efficient with her pitching, so she usually doesn’t go deep in the count,” Coach Mill pointed out. “She’s got good control.”
SCH has been the softball co-champion in the Inter-Ac in the past, but this year’s squad is determined to seize the title outright for the first time in the history of the program.