by Tom Utescher
Hosting seven other 18-and-under fast-pitch softball teams for a PONY Palomino qualifying tournament, the Roxborough Fillies came up just one game short of earning a bid to the East Zone national tournament, finishing in the semifinal round on Sunday afternoon.
For two of the seven Fillies players from Penn Charter and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, this will be the last summer of organized team softball competition. Having just completed their freshman year of college, 2011 Penn Charter grads Katie Brock (Duke University) and McKenzie Kramer (Muhlenberg College) will be too old to play for the Roxborough club team after this year. Neither Brock, a centerfielder, nor Kramer, a third baseman, is playing the sport at the collegiate level.
Another pair of Fillies, both 2012 Springside Chestnut Hill graduates, will be pursuing the sport in college, shortstop Alexis Giovinazzo at Muhlenberg, and catcher Aly Markey at Albright College.
The other three team members from area schools each have a year to go in high school. Penn Charter is getting back pitcher Jess Drossner, as well as Molly Mornhinweg, who succeeded Kramer as PC’s third baseman. Michelle Cybularz, the starting second baseman both for the Fillies and SCH (where she also pitched on occasion), is another rising senior.
In last weekend’s qualifying tourney, played at the Fillies’ Hagy’s Mill Road Complex, the host team went 2-1 in round-robin pool play on Saturday, then won a Sunday morning contest to advance to the semifinals at noon. In that game they were edged out, 3-2, by the Northwest Explosion. Based in Bethlehem, Pa., the Explosion had beaten the Fillies in pool play a day earlier.
In the finals on Sunday afternoon, the Explosion demolished the Hillsborough (NJ) Hustle, 11-2. Both finalists earned an invitation to the East Zone Nationals, which get underway at the end of the month in Cary, NC, just down the road from Katie Brock’s digs at Duke.
There was a rain shower at the time that last weekend’s tourney was to get underway on Saturday morning, but after about an hour’s delay, the Fillies took the field against the Philadelphia Spirit. After three innings the Spirit held a 3-2 edge, but a bases-loaded double by Lauren Mobly highlighted a five-run fourth for the Fillies, who went on to win, 7-3. SCH’s Markey was the catcher for winning pitcher Gwen Botley, a 2012 Norristown High School graduate who’s headed for Marist College.
PC’s Drossner pitched the next game, striking out four without giving up any walks in a 5-4 victory over Bucks County’s Pennsbury Gems. In the first and third innings runs came home on ground-outs by clean-up batter Mobly, a graduate of Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy. Ahead of her, both lead-off hitter Cybularz and number three Giovinazzo had drawn walks in each of their first two turns at the plate.
Two additional runs came home in the third frame, as well, one on a passed ball and the other on Brock’s sacrifice fly deep to centerfield. The Gems got two back at the top of the fourth, and in the home half the Fillies scored on a bases-loaded ground-out by Liz Citrone to make it 5-2. A two-run homer over the fence in left brought Pennsbury back within one run of the lead (5-4) at the top of the sixth, but the game concluded at the end of that inning due to the tournament time limit.
Next up was the Northwest Explosion, who went down in order in the first and third innings, but scored in the fourth for a 1-0 run lead that stayed on the board through the top of the sixth frame. The Fillies’ pitcher was 2011 Plymouth Whitemarsh High School grad Gabby Stamler, who is coming off of a successful season in the circle for Rosemont College.
The Fillies hit against the Explosion, but not when they really needed to, leaving eight runners on base. Their Lehigh Valley opponents piled up four insurance runs in the sixth inning, the first two largely the result of Fillies errors, and the last two coming on a wallop that drove the ball into the scoreboard back up beyond the fence in right centerfield.
Placing second to the Explosion within their pool, the Fillies did not have to play in the early morning round of games on Sunday, and they took the field at 10:00 AM against Pennsbury. The tourney hosts started out the way they’d ended the previous day’s action, victims of a two-run homer. However, the Fillies quickly responded to this opening blow by the Gems with a pair of runs of their own in the bottom of the first.
They shattered the 2-2 tie with a five-run outburst in the home half of the second. The first run in this batch scored when the Gems couldn’t make a tag at the plate off of a ball put in play by Cybularz, and later two Fillies came home on a hit to shallow center by Giovinazzo.
The Fillies scored again on an error in the third, but the Gems recouped the run in the top of the fourth for an 8-3 tally. On the flip side of that inning, Giovinazzo walked and moved to third on a wild pitch and a ground-out, and then Kramer reached first safely as Pennsbury was preoccupied with holding Giovinazzo at the far corner. Both runners came home on a double by Brock, who drove the ball hard over third base. The Gems scored two late runs for a 10-5 final.
It was on to the semifinal round, where the Fillies encountered the Explosion once more, with Stamler on the mound. Cast as the away team, the Roxborough bunch began by sandwiching a Cybularz single and a walk to Giovinazzo around a strike-out. Mobly singled over the head of the first baseman to drive in the first run of the contest, then Kramer lofted a sacrifice fly out into right field to make it 2-0.
The Explosion tied the game in the bottom of the first, when a high fly looked like it might be catchable by right fielder Olivia Powers (Shipley ‘11/Union College), but ended up clearing the fence for a two-run homer. The teams then settled in for a defensive stalemate that lasted into the sixth inning. In the second, Brock charged in to catch a fly ball in shallow center and doubled up a runner who’d been on first base.
The Fillies threatened to break the 2-2 deadlock with a two-out rally in the top of the sixth. Kramer walked on, reached second on a wild pitch, then made third on a successful bunt by Brock. However, a fly to center stranded the two baserunners.
With one out in the bottom of that inning, the Explosion strung together three hits, stroking a pair of singles and an RBI double deep down the line in left field. To avoid further damage, the Fillies intentionally walked Explosion slugger Jenn Dalickas, who led Moravian College in home runs this spring as a freshman. The next batter lined the ball to the right side, where second baseman Cybularz caught it and flipped the ball to Mobly at first for an inning-ending double play.
Nevertheless, the upstate ensemble had registered the go-ahead run, and they got the Fillies out in order at the top of the seventh.