PHILADELPHIA – Go the distance.
The term is most often mentioned in boxing circles and was made famous by legendary movie character Rocky Balboa. Even though the Rock wasn’t going to defeat the more polished, experienced Apollo Creed in their first clash back in 1976, Rocky’s main goal was to finish the fight – and he did.
By the second inning of the first round in the PIAA Class 2A softball state tournament June 3 at Arcadia University, it appeared obvious that Conwell-Egan was not going to defeat Holy Cross. The 10th-ranked Class 2A team in Pennsylvania featured a lights-out junior pitcher who has already verbally committed to play at the University of Massachusetts after she graduates, along with a powerful lineup one through nine.
On a long day during which each of the Catholic League’s five state representatives was defeated by double digits, the only team that remained standing in the seventh inning of any game was Conwell-Egan.
“Our goal going into every game is to play every inning like it’s the first,” said third-team All-Catholic junior Liz Shire. “Whether it’s offensively or defensively, we know that our goal is to work together to play the best we can.
“In the end, going all seven meant a lot to us because even though we came out on the bottom, we know that we did everything we could the whole game. I think defensively we played one of our best games and that’s all we can ask of ourselves.”
After falling behind 5-0 in the third, the Eagles maintained their poise. It wasn’t until a four-run Holy Cross sixth inning that the dam really broke, but not completely. Conwell-Egan freshman Angelina Bresnen, who struck out five and pitched admirably over the final five innings, stranded two runners in the sixth to guarantee that the contest would last seven innings.
Down 11-0 with three outs left, senior starting pitcher Amber Stansfield stroked a lead-off double, one of five hits by five different Conwell-Egan players. With two outs, Stansfield moved to third on a wild pitch. A fly out to right ended the game, but not Conwell-Egan’s spirit.
“We had a lot of heart,” said first-team All-Catholic junior third baseman Cori Jones. “Even though we had 10, 11 people on the team, we just never stopped. We had to play every inning, but we never complained. We loved to play softball.”
Jones and Shire stood side-by-side with second-team All-Catholic junior shortstop Alyssa Fagans after the game and assessed Conwell-Egan’s campaign. The trio looked like they wished Spring 2020 was beginning in a few hours.
Despite the small roster, Conwell-Egan finished one victory shy of an automatic bye in the first round of the Catholic League playoffs. The Eagles dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker at eight-seed John W. Hallahan in the pre-quarterfinals, but bounced back to overwhelm Philadelphia Academy Charter, 17-4, in the District 12 championship.
“We were close to not having a team,” said Fagans. “I think coming out and just getting better each game really helped us and brought us together as a team.”
Win or lose, C-E’s opponent will pay a price if they relax. Holy Cross, for example, was constantly pressured on the base paths with throws trying to catch the Crusaders napping. The Eagles picked off two runners and expertly orchestrated two rundowns.
“Coach (Sandy) Hart really pushes us at practice,” said Shire, one of the league’s most aggressive catchers. “It’s, ‘Keep going; never stop.’”
In the first of five games at Arcadia, St. Hubert fell to Class 6A Spring-Ford, 10-0. The loss was arguably easiest for Hubert’s to take. The Bambies, after all, were the Catholic League champion.
“We wanted the PCL,” said first-team All-Catholic senior Jordan Frye. “That was our main goal. This was just extra. Hopefully we would have played our game and come out on top. That would have been great.”
Last year’s Catholic League champ Archbishop Ryan appeared finished after falling behind Class 5A Lampeter Strasburg, 10-0. But the Ragdolls responded with five runs in the bottom of the second to cut their deficit in half.
Unfortunately, that’s where their offense hit a roadblock, and L-P coasted to a 15-5 win.
“I think we’ve been put in a few tough spots the whole season,” said first-team All-Catholic senior Meghan Kidd. “But we knew there was nothing to lose playing in this game. We kind of left it all out on the field.”
Lansdale Catholic ran into a major buzzsaw, losing to powerful Class 4A West Perry, 20-0.
“I would definitely classify our season as successful,” said Lansdale Catholic first-team All-Catholic junior Megan Burns. “Our goal this year was to get to where we were last year, and we qualified for districts and states. We achieved bigger goals, and that's what I consider a success.”
Second team All-Catholic senior Rebecca Tiley became LC’s all-time leader in hits earlier this season. Unfortunately, she fell two hits shy of 100 for her career.
“Anyone playing the game strives to hit that milestone,” said Tiley. “One hundred hits is a really awesome accomplishment, but when I didn’t get it, I was a little disappointed but knew that I had a career I was really proud of. My teammates have been so supportive the past four years and it’s sad to have it ended like it did.”
In Neumann-Goretti’s 15-2 loss to Class 3A Delone Catholic, the Saints became the first Catholic League team to cross home plate. N-G also flashed some leather in the early innings.
“It was a great experience,” said junior Amelia Trepts. “We were the first Neumann-Goretti softball team to go to states and to bring home a city championship. We played a great team, but we left everything we had in us on the field.”
Giavanna Melaragni– one of only three N-G seniors along with Julia LoMaistro and Dariana Troilo –reflected on the history making event.
“We were all extremely excited but also nervous,” said Melaragni, who doubled home junior Kristine Rosales with the Saints’ first run and then scored on a single to right by LoMaistro. “Once the game started, the jitters were lost and each girl had played the best game I have seen in my four years of playing for my school.
“Even though we lost, this was an experience I will never forget and was well-deserved for this team, especially my fellow seniors who continued to work hard to even say we made it to states for the first time.”
(Reach John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)
2019 All-Catholic Softball Team
Most Valuable Player:
Lindsey Davies, St. Hubert
Pitchers of the Year:
Jenna Smith, Cardinal O’Hara
Lindsey Davies, St. Hubert
Position Player of the Year:
Courtney Sherwood, Little Flower
Sophia Spurio, Archbishop Carroll
Meghan Kidd, Archbishop Ryan
Kylee Guerrera, Archbishop Wood
Hayley Rugh, Bonner-Prendie
Maggie Loomis, Cardinal O'Hara
Allison Ahearn, Cardinal O'Hara
Cori Jones, Conwell Egan
Mary Picozzi, Lansdale Catholic
Megan Burns, Lansdale Catholic
Courtney Sherwood, Little Flower
Jordan Frye, St. Hubert
Jenna Smith, Cardinal O'Hara (Pitcher)
Lindsey Davies, St. Hubert (Pitcher)
Erin Grogan, Bonner-Prendie
Julia Kush, Cardinal O'Hara
Alexia Galli, Cardinal O'Hara
Alyssa Fagans, Conwell Egan
Samantha Burns, John W Hallahan
Rebecca Tiley, Lansdale Catholic
Makenzie Paxson, Little Flower
Erin Hogan, St. Hubert
Dana Bell, Archbishop Ryan (Pitcher)
Ginny Britto, Little Flower (Pitcher)
Maya Preston, Archbishop Carroll
Victoria Slook, Archbishop Ryan
Lauren Hagy, Archbishop Ryan
Jules Donchez, Archbishop Wood
Gianna Lancelotti, Archbishop Wood
Sam Kilson, Bonner-Prendie
Grace Hussey, Cardinal O'Hara
Elizabeth Shire, Conwell Egan
Kaitlyn Leshak, Lansdale Catholic
Gianna Liciardello, Archbishop Carroll (Pitcher)
Julia DiSands, Archbishop Carroll (Pitcher)