There hadn't been any easy outcomes when Penn Charter and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy met twice on the softball field during the 2021 regular season. The SCH Blue Devils came from behind to take …
There hadn't been any easy outcomes when Penn Charter and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy met twice on the softball field during the 2021 regular season. The SCH Blue Devils came from behind to take the first game, 6-5, then on PC's home field the Quakers ground out a 4-2 win in the rematch.
It wasn't any different when the teams collided a third time in the semifinals of the Inter-Ac League tournament last Thursday. The tournament had been put together to provide postseason play in lieu of the customary Pa. Independent Schools tournament, which was not held for the second year in a row.
Third-seeded SCH took the lead twice against number three PC, but the Quakers came back to gain a 5-3 edge for the start of the seventh inning. The visiting Blue Devils forged ahead for a third time, 6-5, and in their final turn at bat the Quakers were unable to respond and saw their season come to an end.
"Every game with them this year has been a battle, and we knew it would be that way today," said Springside coach Stephanie Mill. "It's a game of inches, and we were able to pull things together and rally in the seventh."
SCH went with junior Sam Klug in the pitching circle for all seven innings. Mill explained that she'd only used the 11th-grader for four innings in the Devils' quarterfinal win two days earlier.
"Sam's gotten stronger as the season went on, and typically she's able to pitch the whole game," the SCH mentor related.
Longtime PC coach "Doc" Mittica commented, "Sam did a nice job and they ground it out. We really hit some shots, but they were caught. If those balls were a few feet to the right or left, who knows? But that's the game."
PC, which had a total of just 12 players on its 2021 roster, was missing speedy freshman pinch runner Bella Olsen for Thursday's semifinal. The Blue Devils were intact for the first time in a while.
"We had four players in quarantine, so we hadn't practiced all together in a week," Mill related. "They all came back today for the first time, and I'm proud of the way they were able to come together and focus in this game."
The Blue Devils quickly learned that in the finals they would face fifth-seeded Baldwin School, which upset top-seeded and previously unbeaten Episcopal Academy in the other semifinal game. SCH and the Bears split in their two regular-season contests.
Last Thursday, the Blue Devils went down in order at the top of the first, and after PC junior Kamryn Kosloski led off the bottom half with a double over the head of the left fielder, she got no farther. There wasn't much offense in the next frame, either. SCH junior catcher Marissa Wolff never advanced past first base after she singled through the left side of the infield, and the Quakers couldn't capitalize on an error that gave them a baserunner in the home half of the second.
The bats grew more lively after that, and with one out in the top of the third SCH junior centerfielder Courtney Oliver banged a chopper that bounded up the middle for a single. She went to second when sophomore second baseman Emma Blaszczak hit a ball that caromed off PC pitcher Averie Schnupp.
Schnupp's senior classmate, first baseman Abby Brown, chased down a pop-up that was far foul of the line and almost out of play, but that gave the runners time to move ahead to second and third. SCH's Klug then hit a very high ball to left field, but it was not very deep and it glanced off the glove of the charging outfielder. Two runs scored for the visitors.
Freshman Alyssa Loffer, who started for the home team out in right field, began the bottom of the inning with a single to left and then moved ahead on a wild pitch. She reached third on a drive up the middle by Koslosky, then another 11th-grader, Madi Brooks (the left fielder), drew a walk to load the bases.
This set up a two-run double over the right fielder's head by yet another Charter junior, catcher Luciana Boggi. Brooks also tried to score from first but was tagged out at home plate. Two outs followed, and the game went into the fourth inning tied 2-2.
After a pop-up by the first Blue Devil up to bat, junior Darby Casey singled. The starting shortstop in this contest, Casey had not made many appearances for Springside Chestnut Hill during the spring.
"In our first game with GA she injured her knee," noted Coach Mill, "and then later she hurt a finger. She's a new player for us, and we're just starting to see what she can do."
After Casey got on base, right fielder Marin Stensrud (an eighth-grader) put the ball in play to the left side, and PC shortstop Kosloski initiated a classic six-four-three double play.
The elder Kosloski on the team, senior centerfielder Neilee, hit the ball to the same side as she led off the bottom half of the fourth, but she ended up on second base thanks to a throwing error by the Blue Devils. Although she made it to third on a passed ball, SCH got the next three batters out to keep the game tied.
There were no runs and only seven batters throughout the fifth inning; SCH's Oliver singled over short but was left stranded.
PC mentor Mittica routinely employs relief pitchers, but on this day, with the temperature in the mid-80's, he had more reason to do so.
"Averie had some trouble with the heat, and we didn't want her to go back out there," he commented.
Freshman Payton Handler was sent into the circle for the start of the sixth inning. Many times, when Handler comes in to pitch the Quakers switch Boggi and starting third baseman Macie Bergman, a freshman who is an experienced catcher. That didn't happen here, though.
"In a tight game," the coach explained, "we're just a better team with Looch [Boggi] at catcher and Macie at third."
After a ground-out, SCH's Smith got on base through an infield error and then went to second on a wild pitch. She reached third when Wolff singled between third and short. Wolff stole ahead to second, but then the batter popped out to PC's Boggi. Next, the young Stensrud hit a grounder to the left side. A throwing error by the Quakers helped SCH score the go-ahead run, 3-2. A fly to Neilee Koslosky in center retired the side.
Leading off in the bottom half, Bergman belted a hit to right center and wound up on second base as SCH took a little time retrieving the ball. The freshman was safe on a head-first slide into third as Brown blooped a Texas-League single over second base. Neilee Koslosky walked to load the bases, then on a bunt attempt the Blue Devils were able to secure the force-out at home plate.
PC did get a tying third run home on the next play, when the SCH infield committed a fielding error on a ball hit by McIntyre. A strike-out gave SCH the second out with the bases still loaded, then Kamryn Kosloski drove the ball between shortstop and second base. Two runs scored before the ball was relayed in to Klug and she made a throw to third base for the third out. The inning ended with Penn Charter leading, 5-3.
Now up against it, Springside started the seventh with a pop-up, but then Blaszczak whacked a double to left center. After she moved to third on a hit through the left side of the infield by freshman Kamaha'o Bode, PC took Handler out of the pitching circle and went back to a cooled-down Schnupp.
She started out facing her opposite number, Klug, who sent an RBI single out into centerfield, also allowing Blaszczak to advance to third base. On an infield dribbler off the bat of Smith, the Quakers chose to hold the runner at third rather than go for the out at first, and the bases were filled with Blue Devils.
The reliable Wolff then tied the game at 5-5 with a single between third and short, still leaving the bases loaded. On a bunt by Casey, PC could not get the ball to plate in time for the force-out and SCH went ahead, 6-5. A pop and a ground-out allowed the hosts to avoid further damage, but they now trailed for the third time in the game.
In the bottom half, a pop-up to Wolff and a fly caught by Stensrud in right field brought the Blue Devils to the verge of victory. Next, Bergman's bat produced a ball that bounced over shortstop for a single, but then the game ended with a pop-up to Klug.
Charter's Mittica said afterward, "All the games we had with them were great games. We had the lead late in the game here, but the difference for us this year is that we don't have the kind of shut-down pitching we've had in the past."
UPDATE: Baldwin's postseason hot streak continued in Chestnut Hill in the finals on Saturday. Host SCH fell behind early and didn't score until the last inning, falling 9-1.