by Tom Utescher
Timing is everything, as the Springside softball team learned on a jaunt down to Penn Charter last Friday afternoon. The Lions’ batters made contact with the ball, but not always at the most important points in the game, and the result was a total of 10 runners left on base and an 8-4 loss to the host Quakers.
Playing solid defense and making the most of its opportunities on offense, Charter improved to 6-2 overall, while Springside slipped to 6-3. Midway through the fourth inning the teams were tied at 2-2, but PC went ahead for good in the bottom half with a three-run surge. Charter scored three more times its next time up, while Springside’s last two runs came in the fifth and the sixth frame.
Springside coach Stephanie Mill said that the Lions normally don’t strand many baserunners, but they struggled in that aspect of the game against both PC and league leader Agnes Irwin, who beat them 8-5 on April 21.
At Irwin, she related, “We left a runner at third in five out of seven innings, so there were some similarities in that game and today’s game versus all the rest. We got the ball on the bat better today than at Agnes Irwin, but we lost some momentum when we weren’t able to produce with runners on.”
Each team entered Friday’s fray with a Girls Inter-Ac record of 3-1;
Springside losing to Irwin and the Quakers going down to the Academy of Notre Dame. Another similarity involved the sophomore pitchers for the two teams, who each gave up three bases on balls during the afternoon. The winning hurler, PC’s Jess Drossner, fanned three opposing batters, while the Lions’ Michelle Cybularz did not collect any strike outs. Charter made two errors to Springside’s one, but outhit the Lions 8-6.
“Jess has come so far in a year,” noted PC skipper Donald “Doc” Mittica. “She’s poised, she throws strikes, and she stays out of trouble.”
Completing the Quakers’ youthful battery is freshman catcher Christina Kubach.
“She never caught before in her life, and she’s developing into a really nice catcher,” Mittica said. “She caught a good game today, very solid.”
Mittica, a chiropractor from Lafayette Hill, helped found the Penn Charter softball program and is now in his 20th season as coach. He’s piloted the team to five league championships, and in mid-April he registered his 250th career victory with the ballclub.
After Springside left two runners on base in each of its first two turns at bat last Friday, PC got on the board in the bottom of the second, despite some good defensive plays by the Lions. Quakers senior Katie Brock hit the ball high in the air to left center and wound up on second base, then Springside senior third baseman Brenna Coll made an impressive dive to grab a low foul pop on the next play.
Brock scored when sophomore Molly Mornhinweg whacked a single right across second base. Springside quickly ended the inning when Cybularz snagged a ball hit back at her by Drossner and then doubled up Mornhinweg at first base.
The home half of the third inning also began with a double, this one hit deep to left field by tenth-grader Carly Zurcher. Another sophomore, Rachael Garnick, was tagged out when she hit a grounder down the line to Springside junior first baseman Resnya Hughes, but Zurcher moved to third base and later scored on a single smashed between third and short by junior Danielle Sienko.
The visitors posted their first two runs at the top of the fourth inning, tying the game. With one out, a Charter throwing error got Springside senior Asha Deane safely to first base. The Lions then loaded the bags as junior Michelle Boggs drew a walk and Hughes hit a ball that glanced off Drossner in the pitcher’s circle.
Following a strike-out for the second out, the Quakers tried for a force- out at second on a grounder put in play by Cybularz, but PC couldn’t make the play. Dean scored and then Boggs slid into the plate as the throw home was a little off the mark.
PC came right back with three runs in the bottom half. Leading off, senior Mackenzie Kramer was hit by a pitch, then went to second when Brock waited out a walk. After a fly-out to center, Mornhinweg chipped a hit over short to load the bases, then on a wild pitch one run scored and the other runners went to second and third. A single to left by Drossner brought in another run, and a sacrifice grounder by Zurcher made it 5-2.
Throughout the contest, the Quakers ran aggressively on the basepaths, picking up a number of extra bases in the process.
“That was one of our goals from the beginning of the year,” PC’s Mittica explained. “It’s not just being more aggressive, it’s being more decisive. Make a decision, and do it!”
Lions mentor Mill admitted, “It was gutsy on their part and unfortunately they were able to catch us a little bit asleep a few times.”
Springside got one run back in the top of the fifth, when junior Alexis Giovinazzo tripled near the line in right field and then came home on a sacrifice fly by Coll.
PC’s Zurcher had just moved out to right field from first base. It was part of a three-way move that shifted junior Emily Kurtz from right field to center, and brought Brock in from center to play first.
“Carly was getting so nervous at first base I figured, let’s do it,” Mittica said. “We have two other good outfielders so let’s put Carly in right. Katie Brock is a senior, she’s got a great arm, and she’ll make the plays. It made a difference today, having a more mature infield, and Carly said that she felt more relaxed playing out in right.”
Springside was only down by two, 5-3, going into the bottom of the fifth, and the Lions secured outs against the first two PC batters. A Quakers rally began with a hit to right center by Kubach, who reached second as the visitors were slow to get the ball in from the outfield. Kubach went to third on a wild pitch, then Kramer walked on base and stole second.
Another pitch that got away from Lions junior catcher Aly Markey scored a run and got Kramer to third base. Brock drew a walk and stole second, helping set the stage for a two-run single that Kurtz slapped between short and second base. The Lions finally retired the side on a ground-out, but Charter’s lead had grown to five runs, 8-3.
Springside put together a more modest two-out rally in the top of the sixth, beginning with a triple down the right field line by Cybularz. Freshman Jenna Moriarty walked to first, then Giovinazzo connected on a ball that caromed off Drossner and was bobbled by another infielder, putting the final run of the game in the book. PC’s Kramer grabbed a ground ball and completed a force-out at third for the last out.
In their final turn at bat, the Lions got Deane to first on an error with one out, but two put-outs by Sienko, the Charter shortstop, wrapped up the contest.
While Penn Charter relies on young players in a number of positions, there is solid leadership from Brock, Kramer, and a third senior, pitcher Kate Faigen. Brock is bound for Duke University, while Faigen will attend Kenyon College and Kramer will be playing for Muhlenberg.
“My line-up is pretty deep; everybody hits,” Mittica summed up after Friday’s win. “I tell the girls, if we play defense, we’ll win.”
Springside can take some comfort in the fact that all of its league outings so far have been road games.
“We have both games left with Notre Dame,” Mill said, “and we’ll get all of the other teams on our field the second time around.”
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