Photos/Videos: Marc Narducci & Tommy Muir
By: Marc Narducci
PHILADELPHIA – The day was long and hot, not the best combination to motivate a team that had lost twice already, the second time in convincing fashion.
To top that off, the Inter-Ac softball team in the Carpenter Cup had nothing tangible to play for.
The Inter-Ac had been eliminated from contention after two games, but rules state that each of the 16 franchises is guaranteed a minimum of three.
So minutes after losing by 14 runs, Inter-Ac was forced to take the field.
Then the Inter-Ac got off to an inauspicious start in the third game, trailing Mercer County 6-2 after two innings.
It would have been easy if Inter-Ac had thoughts of blowout city once again.
Maybe the players could just play out the string and depart FDR Park with another L.
But then the Inter-Ac showed what the Carpenter Cup is all about. Actually, the team showed what it is about even more.
The earlier 4-1 loss to Jersey Shore and 15-1 rout against Tri-Cape, two of New Jersey’s titans, left them 0-2 and favored to make it 0-3 against yet another Garden State team.
A funny thing happened on the way to being blown out.
The Inter-Ac suddenly flipped the switch and scored six runs in the top of the third to take an 8-6 lead.
And as the cheering on the bench increased along with the clutch hitting, Inter-Ac was doing more than just flirting with victory.
The team grabbed it by the throat and wouldn’t let go.
Final score: Inter-Ac 9, Mercer County 6.
“I think it was just the fact that we had nothing to lose and we were all just playing with our hearts instead of our heads this game,” said Baldwin School sophomore Joelle Pearlstein, who had a huge hand in the win on many fronts. “We were having a lot of fun and we just kept pushing the entire tournament.”
The way the Carpenter Cup is set up, there are four brackets of four teams each. The Inter-Ac and Mercer County were also in a bracket with Jersey Shore and Tri-Cape. The top two teams in the four brackets advanced to Wednesday’s final day of action.
Tri-Cape, the South Jersey team that routed the Inter-Ac, went 3-0 and Jersey Shore was 2-1 so they both advanced.
As an aside, Mercer County must be the best 0-3 team in recent memory. This is a team that lost just 6-4 to Tri-Cape and 9-8 to Jersey Shore.
And while Inter-Ac was praised for not packing it in after two losses, the same should be said of Mercer County. This team competed hard in this consolation game.
Yet one of the reasons the players are All-Stars is the same reason why no game should be termed meaningless.
These players have pride and they were representing a league or an area, so putting forth a half-hearted effort during a consolation game wasn’t a consideration.
Pearlstein, who started the game in center field, went 2 for 4 with an inside the park home run and two RBI.
She also pitched two hitless and scoreless innings to earn the save.
The pitching came through in a big way for the winners.
Starter Clarissa Smith of Germantown Academy allowed the six runs over the first three innings, but none of them were earned. She also struck out three.
Inter-Ac cleaned up it defense after her stint.
Then came Episcopal Academy freshman Maddie Masiko, who was throwing plenty of pitches that Mercer couldn’t catch up to.
Masiko allowed just one hit in two scoreless innings, while striking out four.
“I felt good personally because I didn’t do as well in the first game and I knew I could do better,” she said.
Masiko was being a little hard on herself.
In that first game, against a potent Jersey Shore lineup, she allowed three runs, two that were earned in four innings, while striking out four in the 4-1 defeat.
If that loss wasn’t bad enough, falling 15-1 to a Tri-Cape team that takes no prisoners in the searing sun, couldn’t have been much fun.
To top it off, Tri-Cape never let its foot off the gas, with a failed stolen base attempt of second base – while up 13-1.
So in a game that nothing went right for Inter-Ac, the players then had about 10 minutes before starting Game No. 3 for the day.
Some teams can take being routed two ways. Inter-Ac chose the positive way, the one where the team refused to be demoralized.
Easier said than done.
“I think the loss kind of brought us together more as a family especially since we are from these different schools, so losing together kind of made us feel like, we have won we lost we can kind of do it together,” Episcopal Academy’s Masiko said. “And coming here we knew it would be more spiritual and we really came together this last game, and it was really fun to watch and play with all these girls.”
This was more than just winning together. Friendships were made during this opening day of the 17th annual Carpenter Cup.
“These girls all play against one another during the season and to come together, I mean I don’t know if you saw our kids on the bench, but they were exchanging phone numbers, exchanging photos, so they really came together,” said Inter-Ac head coach Meghan Halberstadt, the head coach of Agnes Irwin.
They also exchanged some clutch hits throughout the game.
What made this win so meaningful is that there were so many contributors.
Leadoff hitter Kayleigh Howard, a junior second baseman from Germantown Academy was 2 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored.
Third baseman Jamia Nelson, a junior from Agnes Irwin, was 2 for 4 with a triple, two runs and two RBI.
Junior catcher Emily Spillane of Germantown Academy had a key two-run single in the six-run third inning She was 2 for 4 with a run scored and two RBI.
Baldwin School freshman shortstop Addison Milner was 1 for 2 with a run scored.
Even down 6-2, the enthusiasm on the bench never waned.
While this was truly a team victory, special mention goes to Baldwin’s Pearlstein for her work during the entire three games.
She threw three innings and allowed just one run (which was earned) while striking out five against the potent Jersey Shore lineup.
In the three games she threw five innings and allowed two hits and just the one earned run, with seven strikeouts, two walks
She also had at least one hit in all three games, going 4 for 7 with a double, home run, two runs scored and two RBI.
Pearlstein had to battle adversity during the high school season, playing through an ankle injury.
She sprained her ankle in the first inning against Episcopal Academy but kept pitching the rest of the game.
“It was rough,” she said.
So was losing the first two games in the Carpenter Cup.
Just as she did in the regular season, Pearlstein and her Carpenter Cup teammates bounced back in admirable fashion.
Inter-Ac Participants: Agnes Irwin School, Baldwin School, Episcopal Academy, Germantown Academy, William Penn Charter & Springside Chestnut Hill Academy