GFS centerfielder Julia Mankoff closes in on the ball as left fielder Lilly Dupuis comes over to back her up. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

GFS centerfielder Julia Mankoff closes in on the ball as left fielder Lilly Dupuis comes over to back her up. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

When the batters on a softball team sense that a big inning is in the offing, they want to make sure they take advantage of it. The visiting Germantown Friends Tigers did just that last Thursday at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, scoring four times in the opening frame and adding eight more runs at the top of the second inning.

The host Blue Davils came part of the way back, but they were just too far behind after the early outburst by the Tigers, who won 13-6.

For both teams it was the third official game of the 2014 season and, surprisingly, it was the first non-league outing. Each team had already defeated the defending champion in its league, SCH edging Penn Charter, 7-6, and GFS thumping Friends Central, 10-0.

The Tigers (3-0) also won a much closer Friends Schools League contest over Shipley, 10-9, while early last week the Blue Devils (1-2) dropped an Inter-Ac outing against Episcopal Academy, 11-0.

Every team has to deal with injuries, but the SCH outfield seems to have been particularly hard-hit. Even before the Blue Devils played their first official game, two junior veterans were sidelined for the season with torn ACL’s, and last week a promising freshman fill-in was also out of action.

Meanwhile, GFS has been thriving so far this spring under new head coach Stephanie Aurello, a member of the Class of 2000 at Mount St. Joseph Academy.

“I know they’ve been building up the program here,” she said, “and I’ve come into a good situation with a great group of girls.”

Aurello obviously has limited knowledge of the history of the GFS/Springside series, but even longtime assistant coach Dana Griffin couldn’t recall the last time the Tigers defeated the Blue Devils on the diamond.

It was a particularly fitting achievement for the team’s two seniors, catcher Rachel Allison and shortstop Maddie Andrews. Back when they first appeared on the varsity roster, it was apparent that they had a knowledge of the game that most of their predecessors lacked, and they helped bring a new competitive attitude to the GFS program. Allison is still mulling over her college choices, and Andrews is heading for the University of Pennsylvania.

At the start of last Thursday’s game, the Tigers homed right in on the pitches of SCH sophomore Madi Saltzman, beginning with base hits by juniors Liana Spiro and Sophie Trotto.

Spiro sent her ball to centerfield, and Trotto dropped hers just inside the line in right field. Next, a bobbled ball on an attempted force-out at third loaded the bases, with Andrews on first. All three runners scored on a line drive double to left field by Allison, who was in turn driven home by Becker, making it 4-0.

Things only got worse for the home team in the second inning, when three walks and a pair of SCH errors aided the GFS batters. Allison picked up another RBI and sophomore pitcher Lizzie Becker helped her own cause with a sharply-struck two-run double to centerfield. A total of eight more runs streamed across the plate, putting the Blue Devils in a 0-12 predicament.

Most times, the Tigers weren’t pounding the stuffing out of the ball, but they directed their hits to just the right spots in the outfield.

Springside Chestnut Hill’s offense finally got going with a two-out rally in the third. The Devils put the Moriarty sisters (junior Julia and senior Jenna) on base, setting up a two-run stroke for Saltzman, the clean-up batter. Junior Brigit McDermott followed up with an RBI single, making it 12-3.

Out on the mound, Satlzman had settled down, and the Tigers only scored one run in the third through seventh innings. However, the Blue Devils could not come close to climbing out of the pit they’d dug for themselves.

They scored their last three runs of the afternoon in the bottom of the fifth, with the first two crossing the plate on a double deep to left field by Nicole Woo. The freshman centerfielder really stepped up at the plate for the home team, going three-for-three and then walking her last time up.

After Woo’s two-run hit, GFS collected the second out of the inning thanks to its two seniors, as Andrews fielded a grounder and threw to Allison at the plate to nab a sliding Julia Moriarty coming from third.

A walk loaded the bases for the Blue Devils, and then a single up the middle by sophomore Ashley Lubisky drove in a run to make it a 12-6 game.

The Tigers got out of the inning when freshman third baseman Hannah Hanson scooped up a ground ball and stepped on the bag for a force-out.

SCH would not score again, while Germantown posted its final run at the top of the sixth. Allison tripled to left center, then scored on a hit by Becker that tracked just to the right of second base.

In the bottom of the sixth, Springside Chestnut Hill loaded the bases with two outs, but a ground-out ended the inning. Julia Moriarty doubled to left field in the last of the seventh, but was left stranded at the end.

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