By Tom Utescher
For a time, it seemed to veteran Penn Charter softball coach “Doc” Mittica as if last Thursday’s Pa. Independent School Tournament semifinal was a game that neither team wanted to win.
The host Quakers and the visiting Shipley School Gators handed the lead back and forth a few times, but eventually PC took command with a six-run rally that put them up 10-6 in the bottom of the fifth. Each team scored three runs the rest of the way, and with a 13-9 victory top-seeded Charter advanced to the championship game to face Abington Friends, which defeated Springside, 10-6, in Thursday’s other semifinal contest.
Shipley outhit Penn Charter, 10-9, and made just two errors to the Quakers’ five, but the Gators also left 11 runners on base and gave up walks to PC batters at key moments.
Sophomore Jess Drossner pitched all seven innings for the victors, with four strike-outs and four walks. Lauren Touey (6K, 7BB) started for Shipley, and was relieved with no outs in the bottom of the fifth by Olivia Powers (3K, 1BB).
As the game got underway the Gators’ batters made some good contact on the ball. Touey’s sister Sara led off with a single, stole around to third, then scored on a ground-out by Kat Repetto to give her squad a 1-0 lead. The Quakers went in front in the bottom of the first, starting out with a single to shallow right by junior shortstop Danielle Sienko. Shipley’s Touey notched her first strike-out, but then walked the next three batters, forcing home a run. Another strike-out was followed by another base-on-balls to make it 2-1 before the visitors could get out of the inning.
PC posted another pair in the second frame. Sienko tripled down the right field line and scored on a successful bunt by freshman catcher Kristina “K2” Kubach. Shipley got the force-out at second on a ball hit by Charter’s Mackenzie Kramer, then Kramer came around to score on fellow senior Katie Brock’s triple over the head of the left fielder. Brock was later tagged out trying to steal home, and the tally remained 4-1.
Shipley’s Ali Klingsberg led off the third with a double and later scored on a ground-out, and the Gators tied the contest at 4-4 in the fourth. Their two-out rally featured just one base hit, but was aided by a walk and two PC errors.
The visitors put up an additional deuce at the top of the fifth to take the lead, 6-4. Another two-out rally got underway when a high fly ball was dropped by a Charter outfielder. That got the Gators’ Sara Touey to second base, and she scored on Repetto’s single to center as the hosts hesitated on a throw to home plate. Yet another Quakers error contributed to a Shipley run, and the hosts found themselves down by two.
On the flip side of the inning, control problems recurred for Lauren Touey, who walked the first two Penn Charter batters, then saw them move up to second and third on a wild pitch. The Quakers then put their bats into motion, getting a two-run triple to right center by Brock. She came home herself on an infield hit by junior Emily Kurtz, giving the home team a 7-6 edge.
A single down the first base line by sophomore Molly Mornhinweg and a walk to Drossner loaded the bases with no outs, and Shipley decided it was time to change pitchers, sending Powers into the circle. After a strike-out and a force-out at home, it looked like Shipley might escape without further damage, but a high fly ball lofted by Sienko was dropped out in centerfield, and all three runners scored to make it 10-6.
The Quakers stretched their lead with another three runs in the bottom of the sixth, starting out with a single by Kramer and a walk to Brock. Kurtz singled right over second base and the Gators made a few ill-advised throws once they retrieved the ball. The net result was two more Charter runs, with Kurtz winding up on third base. She came home on a sacrifice grounder to the right side by Mornhinweg, and Charter had reached its final total of 13 runs.
To their credit, the Gators went down fighting, getting a triple by Sara Touey and singles by Lauren Touey and Klingsberg to put three more points on the board. PC’s Drossner ended the game with a strike-out, and the Quakers moved on to the finals.