By John Knebels
Photos by Mike Nance & Mark Zimmaro
PHILADELPHIA - A 4-0, first-inning lead had quickly become 4-1, and there were runners on second and third and no outs.
Dakota Fanelli wasn’t worried.
“I kind of settled down,” said the sophomore pitcher. “I have to be the leader in the field. If my body language changes, the whole field changes. I had to keep my head up so everyone would know that it’s okay. I have it.”
With Fanelli dealing a complete game four-hitter with 10 strikeouts, five-seed Archbishop Wood startled four-seed St. Hubert, 9-2, in a Catholic League quarterfinal May 19 at Vogt Recreational Playground.
The Lady Vikings’ victory over the defending champion Bambies sets up a semifinal date at top-seed Archbishop Ryan 6:30 tomorrow.
In their regular-season finale, the Lady Vikings had lost to Hubert, 4-2. Suspect defense and a non-existent offense through the first six innings cost Wood a home playoff game. However, knowing that the Bambies had scored four unearned runs reinforced the notion that a steady defense was pivotal if the Lady Vikings were to advance.
“If they don’t make plays, the game could go a whole different way,” said Fanelli. “It doesn’t matter how many strikeouts I have. I have to trust my fielders to make those plays, and I do. You saw it here today. They can make those plays.”
The Lady Vikings also showed that they could hit the ball.
Eight batters approached the plate in the first, and nine more in the second. Wood’s carnage consisted of nine runs on five singles, two walks, a hit batter, two run-scoring fielder’s choice grounders, a sacrifice fly, and two Hubert errors.
Hubert junior pitcher Riley Long (nine strikeouts, one hit, no walks) shut down the Wood offense over the last five innings, but by that point, the Lady Vikings had seized a commanding 9-1 lead and appeared much less disciplined at the plate compared to the first two innings.
“It was really important that we scored early,” said junior Gianna Anzideo, who knocked in three runs. “In the last game (against Hubert), we didn’t hit the ball in the beginning. Today we got ahead and kept up our energy the whole game.”
In her first-ever scholastic playoff game, Fanelli was dominant. After the aforementioned situation in the first inning, she retired nine straight, and 16 of the next 17. A one-out infield single in the sixth came around to score. In the seventh, Fanelli struck out the first hitter and induced consecutive pop outs to sophomore Riley Nolan.
So, in a combined 13 innings against one of the league’s top teams, Fanelli surrendered two earned runs, nine hits, three walks, and struck out 19.
One of the games was tight, and one of them a blowout. Fanelli did not alter her approach.
“It’s still pitch to pitch, same as I did in the beginning, ’cause the game doesn’t change,” said Fanelli. “It doesn’t matter how many runs we have. It’s the same game.”
Big Bats Carry Ragdolls
With four batters contributing multiple hits, Archbishop Ryan advanced by defeating visiting eight-seed Little Flower, 12-2. Senior Dana Bell (2-2, 2 walks, 3 runs scored, 2 RBI), senior Lauren Hagy (2-4, double, triple, 2 RBI), freshman Kayla Gray (2-4, double, 2 runs scored), and sophomore Janine Swift (2-2, RBI) supplied most of the offense.
For the Sentinels, sophomore Megan Leary furnished a highlight when she doubled and later scored on a collision at home plate.
The Ragdolls had completed a perfect 9-0 regular season, but in the postseason, previous records supply little significance. It’s one and done. The Ragdolls, therefore, had to make certain they did not take the Sentinels lightly.
“There is definitely a different feel in the playoffs,” said Bell, who led the Ragdolls to the 2018 Catholic League title. “It’s a tough balance between staying confident in your team’s abilities and getting cocky. Knowing how well we did against other teams in the regular season is hard to forget about when it comes time for our playoffs games.
“Like tonight, while we were playing Little Flower, I found the team and even myself with this mentality that we already won that game. We are all looking forward to the championship, but we have to get there first. However, this was a great game for us and I’m glad to see the Ragdolls’ bats come alive tonight," said Bell.
A Dozen Runs Propel Lady Patriots
Two-seed Archbishop Carroll overwhelmed visiting seven-seed Cardinal O’Hara, 12-0. Junior Cheyenne Niehoff knocked in four runs with a double and a triple, and senior Sophia Spurio added a double and three RBI. Junior Maya Preston, sophomore Lauren Martin, sophomore Maddie Martin, and junior Molly Devenney each scored multiple runs.
On the mound, junior Gianna Liciardello tossed a six-hit shutout with four strikeouts.
“I was focused on each batter and each pitch,” she said. “I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. I trusted the fielders behind me. I want to take one game at a time and work hard to get us to the final.
“As a team we played awesome, and we need to keep that intensity up to go further. I am very proud of our team and what we have done so far.”
Lady Eagles Find Sweet Revenge
Conwell-Egan continued its winning ways. With sophomore Katey Brennan smashing her eighth home run of the season, the three-seed Eagles ousted six-seed Bonner-Prendergast, 9-4.
After losing their first two, the Lady Eagles have gone 7-1 against PCL competition. One of C-E’s losses was against Bonner-Prendergast, 13-5, back on April 20.
In the world of softball, that’s eons ago.
“We definitely used that loss to fuel ourselves, to get some revenge,” said Brennan. “When we first played Bonner, we were down a starter. Also, I feel that they were more ‘pumped up’ for that game because it was their senior game.
“Coach (Sandy) Hart said after that game that it was not our day, and she was right. We knew we were better than how we played that day. We absolutely sought revenge and hoped we would see them in the playoffs.”
In this afternoon's PCL semifinals, three seed Conwell-Egan visits two-seed Archbishop Carroll at 3:30; five-seed Archbishop Wood visits top-seed Archbishop Ryan at 6:30.