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SOFTBALL: Archbishop Wood and Conwell-Egan Capture State Playoff First-Round Victories

By John Knebels Photos: Mark Zimmaro & Chuck Ginter, 06/08/22, 3:00PM EDT


Photos/Videos: John Knebels, Mark Zimmaro & Chuck Ginter

By: John Knebels

PHILADELPHIA –  Conwell-Egan junior Katey Brennan corralled one of the best catches ever seen anywhere, and Archbishop Wood junior Dakota Fanelli fired a complete-game gem.

Their heroics on June 6 helped both teams advance to the second round of the PIAA softball state playoffs, only the third time that multiple Philadelphia Catholic League squads have achieved such glory in the same season since the PCL joined the PIAA in 2007-08 but began participating in the playoffs the following year.

Only one PCL team, Lansdale Catholic’s 2014 crew, has reached the state semifinals. 

“It’s been a while,” said Conwell-Egan coach Sandy Hart. “It’s always special to win a state playoff game.”

The Class 2A Eagles, who at 2:00 on June 9 will meet District 6 champion Southern Huntingdon at Millersville University, first reached states in 2012 and haven’t missed since. Their 10 appearances have included first-round victories in 2012, 2013, and 2022. 

Last year, the Eagles were crushed by Williams Valley, 16-0. In 2019, Williams Valley defeated Conwell-Egan, 10-4, en route to the Class 2A state crown. This time, however, the host Eagles used a six-run surge in the sixth inning for a 10-4 win.

With the score tied at 4-4 in the top of the sixth, Williams Valley appeared to take a 6-4 lead on an apparent home run. But Brennan raced back, made a full-extension dive, and crashed through the mesh fence for the final out of the inning.

“That was the turning point,” said Hart. “It was a fantastic catch.”

Katey Brennan's incredible game-saving catch (a series) - Photo Courtesy of Chuck Ginter

Katey Brennan's incredible game-saving catch (a series) - Photo Courtesy of Chuck Ginter

Katey Brennan's incredible game-saving catch (a series) - Photo Courtesy of Chuck Ginter

Brennan, the PCL Most Valuable Player, also produced at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, a single, and two runs batted in.  

“Williams Valley beat us last year in the first round of states,” said Brennan. “We knew coming into this game that we needed everybody to play better than last year. Each of us stepped up to the challenge. This was a great team win. Everyone on the team either hit the ball well or had a great play in the field; most did both.”

Brennan issued a shout out to freshmen Lily Milewski and Cecilia McBeth.

“One of the big differences this year is the addition of two excellent freshman starters,” said Brennan. “Cecilia and Lily’s enthusiasm and dedication to the game is inspiring to all of us."

CEC junior outfielder Katey Brennan talks about her incredible diving catch to keep the game tied 4-4 – PSD Video by Mark Zimmaro

Senior Angelina Bresnen said her team was confident, winning their 1st state playoff game since 2013 – PSD Video by Mark Zimmaro

CEC sophomore Molly Milewski’s batting practice paid off, securing 3 runs to give her team the lead – PSD Video by Mark Zimmaro

Simultaneously, the team that Conwell-Egan lost to in a scintillating Catholic League final was also involved in victorious pursuit.

With Fanelli – the PCL’s Pitcher of the Year – allowing seven hits, one earned run and no walks while striking out seven – one each inning – Archbishop Wood snatched its first-ever state tournament triumph, 5-2, over District 3 Runner-Up Big Spring. A pair of sophomores – center fielder Parker Kraus and infielder Julia Yogis – contributed acrobatic defensive plays while junior catcher Paige Ross nabbed a would-be base stealer in the third inning and then cut down a runner trying to advance to third base in the fourth.

Archbishop Wood vs. Big Spring PIAA 4A First Round Highlights by John Knebels

Senior Gianna Anzideo had 2 singles that led to 2 runs in 1st round state victory - PSD Video by John Knebels

The Vikings will face District 2 champion Tunkhannock 4:00 June 9 at Allentown’s Patriot Park.

“When we came in, we were still talking about different roles on the team and everyone working together,” said Wood coach Jackie Ecker. “We knew it was again going to be another team effort. The girls stepped up and we kind of stayed pretty relaxed.

“Confidence is huge. We talk about confidence all the time. For as much fun as we have on this team, we work hard and the girls give it all they got. Once it’s game time, they are serious and they are behind each other talking it up.”

First baseman Gianna Anzideo, one of two Wood seniors (along with All-Catholic leftfielder Abby Windish), collected two hits that led to runs in both the second and third innings.

“It feels great to win this for the first time in softball history,” said Anzideo. “We’ve just been doing really well this season and everyone has stepped up and done what their role is. We knew this could have been our last game, but we fought through and we had confidence that everybody would step up. We just played our hardest.”

Archbishop Wood Coach Jackie Ecker talks about yet another milestone win for the program - PSD Video by John Knebels

Junior pitcher Dakota Fanelli fought through an in-game injury & hurled a complete game -VIdeo by John Knebels

Archbishop Wood junior Riley Nolan enjoyed a good all-around performance - PSD video by John Knebels

Even though the PCL placed a league-record six teams in this year’s state playoffs and etched multiple first-round winners for only the third time PCL history (Conwell-Egan and St. Hubert’s in 2012; Archbishop Ryan and Lansdale Catholic in 2014), its collective history in the state playoffs stands at a rather abysmal 11-42.

Nine different schools have participated in at least one state game. The most successful program has been Lansdale Catholic (3 wins, 5 losses), followed by Conwell-Egan (3-9) and St. Hubert’s (2-9). With one win are Archbishop Ryan (1-8), since-closed Kennedy-Kenrick (1-2), and now Archbishop Wood (1-3). Bonner-Prendergast (0-3), Neumann-Goretti (0-2), and Cardinal O’Hara (0-1) are still looking for their first win. 

Of the four teams that lost this year, Class 4A Archbishop Ryan was the one that left with particular heartache.

Despite strong hitting, the Ragdolls saw a 5-1, sixth-inning disintegrate in a 10-5 loss to District 11 champion Bethlehem Catholic.

“I would just say that this season was like no other, and honestly not having our seniors (Ryan’s graduation was a few hours before the game) at our state game gave us a little taste of what our team will be like next year,” said Ryan junior All-Catholic leftfielder Sabrina Pastino. “We fought hard and got better every single game all the way until the end. Guaranteed, next year we will be a team to beat.”

On its own field, Class 5A Cardinal O’Hara dropped a 6-1 decision to District 1 Runner-Up Oxford.

“We did not have a good day,” said O’Hara coach Terry Coyne. “Winning District 12 and the youth of our team should help our outlook next year in Catholic League and states.”

St. Hubert’s was blanked by District 1, 4-seed Spring-Ford, 11-0, in a game played at Cardinal O’Hara.

“I’m proud of how girls fought and stayed competitive all year,” said Bambies coach Dan Milio. “The season did not go as we would have liked, but winning a District 12 championship and getting into the state tournament is a accomplishment we all should be proud of. Our future is still bright.”

Class 3A Neumann-Goretti lost to District 3 champ Kutztown, 12-1.

“We were down two starters,” said Neumann-Goretti coach Brian Sitongia. “We played really well and the effort was excellent. The energy was great, so I was pleased with everything.”

The Saints’ offense produced consecutive singles by junior Riana Matkowski, senior Kaitlin Banning, and junior Savanah Pacetti. They scored their run when Matkowski stole home.  


(Contact John Knebels at or on Twitter @johnknebels.)