Photos: Lou Rabito
By: John Knebels & Jake Gabel
Pitching dominance on both ends highlighted the Friends Schools League softball semifinal May 10. In the end, though, it came down to which team played better defensively.
With sophomore Brianna Keenan adding to her one-season team record for strikeouts with seven, three-seed Friends’ Central pushed across an unearned run in both the fourth and fifth innings and held on to defeat two-seed Westtown, 2-1.
The Phoenix will travel to top-seed and undefeated Shipley School in Friday afternoon’s league championship. The Gators (15-1 overall; 12-0 in the league) edged upset-minded Friends Select, 5-4, in the other semifinal. Friends’ Central (11-5, 9-3) is looking for its eighth title overall and its first since winning three straight from 2012 through 2014. While defending last year’s crown and now making it to three straight finals, Shipley hopes to capture its sixth championship. This year, Shipley upended Friends’ Central by scores of 11-1 and 9-2.
“Our defense really stepped it up to secure a spot in the final game,” said senior third baseman Bella Lederman, one of three upperclassmen on the Phoenix roster. “Friends’ Central hasn’t made it to the finals in almost a decade. We went from losing almost all of our games as freshmen to getting to the final as seniors. We are really proud of how far we’ve come.”
Westtown pitcher Lucia Sanchez tried to singlehandedly will the Moose to victory. True to form, the sophomore pounded the strike zone and finished with 15 whiffs. The ace hurler has now struck out an astounding 264 hitters in 21 career games, and her earned run averaged has dipped below 1.50.
Along with smart base running, Friends’ Central took advantage of fielding miscues that allowed sophomore Maria Morsa to score in the fourth and freshman Maia Sevin to cross the plate in the fifth. Westtown made it interesting in the seventh, cutting its deficit in half, but a pair of groundouts ended any remaining intrigue.
Shipley will be moving onto the Friends School League finals after a thrilling walk-off win in the semifinals against Friends Select, 5-4. The walk-off single was courtesy of Shipley’s Elle Aronstam in the bottom of the seventh inning to break the 4-4 tie.
The game started out one sided. In the second inning, Zoe Manaras hit a two-RBI triple to put Shipley on the board. In the top of the third, Friends Select received a jolt on an inside-the-park home run from pitcher Margot Schneider.
Shipley extended its lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the third as Maddy Ewald ripped an RBI double. Ewald had a big day at the plate, going 3-3 with two doubles and an intentional walk.
In the fourth inning, Morgan Kane added another run to the Gators' lead with an RBI single. Kane, a senior, is one of two Shipley captains and is committed to play softball at Holy Cross next season.
Shipley’s other captain, Isabella Purdy, was dominant on the mound. The senior is committed to Salisbury University. Purdy struck out 10 in just five innings and gave up two runs.
Friends' second run came off an RBI single by Sofia Parravicini. This ended Purdy’s day on the mound, and in relief came Maddie Todd. Friends Select kept its rally going, scoring two more runs in the top of the sixth to tie the game at 4-4.
Sami Giganti hit an RBI single that scored Parravicini. After getting to second, Giganti stole third base. A few pitches later, Giganti scored on a passed ball to tie the game.
In the top of the 7th, with the game still 4-4, Friends Select seemed like the momentum was still on its side. But the Falcons stranded a runner on first and second heading, keeping the game tied into the bottom of the 7th, where Shipley would finish it off with Aronstam’s walk-off.
“We put in a lot of work this season,” said Ewald. “Being part of that last play where we were able to walk off with a win was exhilarating, and it just shows how much work we put in as a team.”
While Friends Select’s FSL run is over with the loss, the season is not over yet. Friends Select qualified and will be competing in the PAISAA tournament.
As for Shipley, the Gators will, of course, be moving on to the finals, where they will be taking on Friends' Central in the title game at home.
The championship game is set to take place 4 p.m. Friday, May 13, at the Shipley School.