SCH eighth-grader Ashley Lubisky (left) slides safely in to third base just before Penn Charter junior Molly Mornhinweg puts on the tag. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

As the softball infielders for visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy warmed up for the bottom of the seventh inning, senior catcher Aly Markey called out to her classmates, shortstop Alexis Giovinazzo and first baseman Resnya Hughes.

“Hey, this is our last inning of high school softball!”

That might have been tempting fate, but the Lions took care of business in that final half-inning and didn’t allow any inroads into their 6-3 lead by the host Quakers of Penn Charter.

With the victory, SCH closed out the 2012 season with an overall record of 13-6, and finished second to Agnes Irwin within the Girls Inter-Ac League, with a mark of 9-3. The Lions lost both of their games with Irwin (11-1), split with Episcopal Academy, and swept the other four Inter-Ac teams. Irwin’s league loss, surprisingly, came against last-place Baldwin.

Longtime coach Steph Mill related, “At one point we knew that we weren’t going to take the league [title], and I said to the team that our goal now is to finish in second place, and be there by ourselves. The team never gave up all season, and that carried through to today, when we fell behind a couple times but battled back.

“I kept telling them just come to play every day and don’t assume anything,” she went on, “and when Baldwin beat Agnes Irwin it made me look like I knew what I was talking about.”

Last Wednesday’s outcome meant a fourth-place Inter-Ac finish for Penn Charter (6-6), one spot behind Episcopal (7-5). The next day, Charter closed out its season in the semifinals of the Pa. Independent Schools Tournament, with a 6-3 loss to eventual champ Mercersburg Academy giving the Quakers a final record of 12-12.

Charter was the early leader in the league finale against Springside Chestnut Hill. Leading off the bottom of the first for PC, freshman Kayla Quinn walked, moved ahead two bases on deep fly balls, and then scored on a strange little hit by senior Emily Kurtz. When it came off the bat it looked like a little bloop that might roll foul, but the ball was nowhere near the baselines. Indecisive SCH looked at it until both runners were safe, with Quinn scoring the game’s opening run.

The Lions quickly matched that point at the top of the second. Eighth-grader Ashley Lubisky walked on, then made it to third base with a slide on a hit by sophomore Jenna Moriarty. Moriarty stole second, but a pop-out followed and then Charter got a force at the plate on a ball put in play by Hughes.

Freshman Bridget McDermott walked to tie the bases, then junior Michelle Cybularz batted up a slow roller to the left of the pitcher’s circle. The Lions were safe all around and the score was tied 1-1. PC got the last out when senior shortstop Danielle Sienko turned and dashed back into left field for a great diving catch on a shallow fly ball.

The visitors got their first lead when Giovinazzo led off the third with a solo home run over the fence in left center. The Quakers quickly countered with a pair of runs in the bottom half. Sophomore Kristina Kubach started out with a walk and then scored on a hit by Sienko that dropped into right field, although the senior was tagged out trying to reach third base. Kurtz was hit by a pitch and then came home on a double deep down the left field line by junior Molly Mornhinweg, making 3-2 for the home team.

There was a break in the scoring in the fourth inning, as both teams went down one-two-three.

Springside Chestnut Hill went ahead for good in the fifth. With one out, Giovinazzo got on base through an error and then Markey walked on. After that, the Penn Charter battery broke down and there was a combination of three wild pitches and passed balls, along with another walk. The Lions scored twice to go up 4-3.

In the bottom half, SCH shortstop Giovinazzo helped quash a threat by the Quakers, who led off with a single to right center by Kubach. Giovinazzo scooped up a grounder hit by Sienko, stepped on second for the force out, and threw to first in time to nab Sienko, her longtime club softball teammate.

The visitors added their two insurance runs in the sixth frame. Hughes got on with a dropped fly ball, then went to second on a ground-out by McDermott. Cybularz hit to centerfield and wound up on second while Hughes came home to make it 5-3. Before PC struck out the next batter, a wild pitch sent Cybularz to third, and when Giovinazzo walked on, the two engineered a double to steal to put up the final run of the afternoon.

The Quakers were unable to get a runner past first base in the bottom of the sixth, and they went down in order in the seventh.

That was, indeed, the last inning of high school softball for Giovinazzo and Markey, who will play for Muhlenberg College and Albright College, respectively, and for Hughes, who will attend Drew University.

“The seniors set the example day-in and day-out, and that was crucial for our very young team,” said Mill, referring to the fact that five current seniors and juniors from the 2011 roster did not come out for softball this spring.

“Alexis has been a rock for us – so solid with her bat and with her defense,” Mill commented. “She’s a multi-year captain and a leader who’s going to be hard to replace. She’s passionate about the sport and she’s always the first one thinking softball.

“We had an eighth-grade pitcher, so Aly’s experience as a catcher was really important,” the coach continued. “She worked with Madi Salztman [the middle school hurler] and took her under her wing, helping her stay focused. She also calls her own pitches, which is a plus.”

Turning to Hughes, Mill pointed out, “Resnya was another five-year varsity player for us, like Alexis. With her height (5’11”) at first base she was able to make difficult throws from third base or short look easy. It looks like the ball is going to go flying out of play and she tippy-toes it and makes the catch. She’s a hardworking player, and I think she only had two errors in each of the last two seasons.”