by Tom Utescher
After trailing host Penn Charter, 2-1, since the first inning, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy went ahead with two runs in the top of the fifth frame in last Tuesday’s Inter-Ac League softball showdown. The PC Quakers responded with a pair of runs of their own in the home half, continuing on to win their 2019 league opener, 4-3.
Charter had not beaten SCH since the 2017 season; last spring the Blue Devils repeated as league champions and then overcame the Quakers in nine innings in the finals of the Pa. Independent Schools tournament.
Springside Chestnut Hill has not made an auspicious start in seeking to defend its league title this spring. Before playing PC last week, SCH had lost its league opener at the Academy of Notre Dame on April 5.
Although the Blue Devils regrouped for a non-league victory over Archbishop Carroll last Wednesday, they were still 0-2 in the league.
Penn Charter had made a spring break excursion to prepare for the season at the Cal Ripken Experience complex in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
“It was great for team bonding,” said PC head coach Doc Mittica, “and we got to play some very, very tough games. You have to have tight games and find a way to come out on top to believe in yourself.”
The coach noted that there are freshmen starting for his squad at shortstop (Kamryn Koslosky) and catcher (Luciana Regalbuto) along with three sophomore starters.
SCH also has young players at important positions, beginning with the battery for last Tuesday, freshmen Sam Klug (pitcher) and Marissa Wolff (catcher). Veteran junior catcher Erin Fennessy is not quite all the way back from knee surgery, and has been playing first base.
Her classmate and returning former first baseman Katie Reagan was stationed at third, where one of last year’s seniors had played for several seasons. Senior Colebe Oliver is the experienced anchor in the Blue Devils’ outfield, and alongside her are her eighth-grade sister, Courtney, and Nailah Wheeler, who is a junior in her first season as a full-time varsity player.
Tuesday’s game started out with a strikeout, then walks were issued to SCH senior Mo’ne Davis and to Reagan. Both runners advanced when the elder Oliver grounded out to third, then Davis scored when a routine throw back to the pitcher went awry. PC senior Anastasia Lewis then retired the side with her second strikeout.
In the bottom half, an infield error got Quakers junior Maddie Solow to first, but she was doubled up after a pop-up was gloved by the visitors. PC senior captains Abby Mannion and Abby Quinn engineered a nice two-out rally for the hosts, beginning with a base hit to right field by Mannion.
A bash farther out to right by Quinn travelled down the line and strayed just outside the foul pole. Two pitches later, Quinn knocked the ball over the fence in right center to move Penn Charter ahead, 2-1. A fly ball ended the inning, and in the second the score remained unaltered as each team left two runners on base. The defenses dominated in the third and fourth frames, with 12 straight outs recorded by the two teams.
With one out in the top of the fifth, SCH senior Steph DeAngelis got on base with a bunt, then scored when Davis directed a line drive to right center and the ball rolled to the fence. Springside Chestnut Hill went up 3-2 when Davis scored from third on Reagan’s sacrifice fly to centerfield.
Groundouts by each team ended the top of the fifth inning and started out the bottom half. Solow walked on and moved to second on a hit up the middle by Lewis, who then went back to the dugout as freshman Madi Brooks came in to run for her.
Mannion sent a base hit to right field and reached second as SCH took a little time to get the ball back to the infield. Ahead of her, Solow scored and Brooks moved to third. Quinn picked up another RBI with a base hit to left field. Although the SCH catcher, Wolff, ran down Mannion between home plate and third base, PC had gone back in front, 4-3, and that turned out to be the final score.
Fennessy singled for SCH to start off the sixth, then Charter’s Lewis fanned the next three batters. The Quakers, too, sent just four batters to the plate in the home half, leaving sophomore Avery Schnupp stranded after she got on base with a single.
Lewis struck out the first Blue Devil batter at the top of the seventh, then DeAngelis softly hit a ball that travelled a few feet off the ground toward short. Koslosky, the PC freshman, dove and scooped the ball before it could hit the dirt, recording the second out. The contest then concluded with a fly ball to right field.
The winning pitcher, Lewis, walked three batters over the first two innings, but she didn’t give up any walks after that as she piled up an impressive 12 strikeouts.
Coach Mittica noted, “She never let things get out of hand. The big decision was whether to pitch to Katie Reagan [in the top of the fifth]. The girls all wanted to pitch to her, and even though she hit a long sacrifice fly, we came out on top. I had a feeling that we would get a couple more runs.”
The PC skipper also underscored the effectiveness of his two captains in helping guide a relatively youthful Quakers team this spring.
He stated, “Abby Mannion and Abby Quinn are amazing – two of the best captains I’ve had in years.”