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SOFTBALL: Philadelphia Catholic League Eliminated in Carpenter Cup Softball, but Plenty of Positives Came Out

By Marc Narducci, 06/21/22, 11:15PM EDT


Photos/Videos: Tommy Muir, Zack Beavers & Marc Narducci


PHILADELPHIA – The latest edition of the 17th annual Carpenter Cup showed what the previous 16 also demonstrated – that this is an awfully hard tournament to win, especially if you don’t live in the Diamond State.

That is the way it should be when 16 of the best All-Star teams from the Tri-State area compete for area softball supremacy.

The Philadelphia Catholic League went 1-2 in its three games on Tuesday and was sent home, finishing third in a four-team bracket.

Here was the bracket – Delaware South (3-0), Delaware North (2-1), Philadelphia Catholic League (1-2) and Burlington County (0-3).

So both Delaware franchises advanced to the single-elimination portion of the tournament which concludes Wednesday at Philadelphia’s FDR Park.

This was far from a surprising development.

The Catholic League opened with a 4-3 win over Burlington County, which despite its record, is no slouch of a franchise.

The winners had to actually feel fortunate to escape defeat, having been outhit 13-5, but scoring four runs in the bottom of the third inning, was just enough.

Leading the way was leadoff hitter Lauren Martin, a junior first baseman from Archbishop Carroll, who was 2 for 2 with a run scored and an RBI.

Cardinal O’Hara freshman righthander Hayden Sissons got the Catholic League off to a quick start with four shutout innings. (Carpenter Cup rules allow a pitcher to throw a maximum of four innings each game.)

St. Hubert’s junior Maura Gorman earned the save with a scoreless seventh inning.

This was a must-win for the Catholic League because nobody thought they would sweep their next two games.

PCL vs. Burlington County - Carpenter Cup Highlights by Marc Narducci

Cardinal O'Hara freshman pitcher Hayden Sissons talked about participating in her first Carpenter Cup - PSD Video by Marc Narducci

Yet the Catholic League made defending champ Delaware South sweat on an overcast afternoon. The Catholic League, which was the visiting team, led 3-2 before surrendering consecutive sacrifice flies in the bottom of the fifth inning for a 4-3 deficit.

Archbishop Wood junior Paige Ross went 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI.

Yet it wasn’t enough. The champs, maybe not at their best, still had enough to hold off the determined Catholic League.

“They are a very tough, very gritty team,” said Delaware South head coach Jay Davis of the Catholic League. “They are well-coached, and the girls had very aggressive at-bats, pitching was on point and I thought the defense played very well.”

All assessments were correct, but a team like the Catholic League has to go beyond that to upset the defending champs.

How dominant has Delaware South been?

In the previous 16 Carpenter Cups, Delaware South has won five titles.

So what’s up with the Delaware dominance?

“The girls love the game, they spend the time, they put in the effort, and they absolutely love the game,” Davis said.

Lots of players and teams love the game. Davis should have added that Delaware South loves winning, or more appropriately, hates losing.

So then it was a third game with Delaware North, a win and you’re in contest for the Catholic League.

PCL vs. Delaware South - Carpenter Cup Highlights by Marc Narducci

Delaware North lost its opener, 4-1 to Delaware South.

Think it’s not spirited when those two meet?

That loss put Delaware North in a foul mood and this is one of those franchises that isn’t happy just to compete well. Even though Delaware North has never won a Carpenter Cup softball title, the team is usually competitive.

And Delaware North took care of business, beating Burlington County, 5-1.

And in the showdown with the Catholic League, North stormed to a 9-1 victory.

This was a competitive game for a while.

The Catholic League took a 1-0 lead when Conwell-Egan junior Molly Milewski hit a one-out triple in the top of the second inning and Lansdale Catholic junior Sam McHugh drove her home with an RBI single.

The score was 1-1 until Delaware North scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

And that made the game essentially over with the next move.

Entering the top of the fifth was St. Mark’s junior righthander Carly Maxton.

And immediately everybody got to see in person what a big-time Division I recruit looks like. Maxton has committed to North Carolina State.

She not only pitched three hitless innings to close the game, but struck out eight in the process, while not walking a single batter.

“We knew she could shut it down so we just figured we would close out with her,” Delaware North head coach Tori Brooks said.

Keep in mind, the Catholic League players have faced Division I pitchers before. Many of them compete in travel ball, where there is no shortage of fire-balling pitchers. There aren’t quite as many pitchers who have mastered the screw ball the way Maxton did.

PCL vs. Delaware North - Carpenter Cup Highlights by Marc Narducci

PCL carpenter cup coach of Archbishop Wood Jackie Ecker talked about the experience of competing in the carpenter cup and of her team's 4-3 loss to defending champion Delaware South - PSD Video by Marc Narducci

“She was really good, I have to give it to her,” said Conwell-Egan junior outfielder Katey Brennan, the Catholic League MVP. “Her spin pitches were just amazing, everything was breaking by like a foot at least, it was crazy.”

Cardinal O’Hara’s Sissons, who appears to have an awfully bright future, looked on with admiration at the way Maxton working as a mound maestro.

“She was phenomenal,” Sissons said. “Her rise and screw ball, I’m jealous. They were amazing.”

What this shows is that these are the types of players teams have to deal with at the Carpenter Cup, where graduating seniors are ineligible. Imagine if the seniors could compete in this tournament.

It’s a testament to the skill in the Tri-State area.

And while the competition is fierce, the Catholic League and other franchises that didn’t advance on Tuesday, will keep coming back, because the one common thread is that the players and coaches love the sport.

One has to have passion when playing three games in a day. That’s also a light workload on the travel ball circuit.

So even though the Catholic League didn’t advance, there were no regrets. It’s softball against top-flight competition and softball players play and play and play some more.

“This was great, the girls battled hard and they played together, which is hard to do with a bunch of girls that don’t play together,” said Catholic League head coach Jackie Ecker, the head coach at Archbishop Wood.

While some teams played many of their regulars most of the way, Ecker had a different philosophy. She wanted to make sure each player saw time – every game.

The most impressive stat is that all 17 Catholic League players appeared in each of the three games.

“The philosophy here for me is, you bring 17 girls to the Carpenter Cup, which is amazing and such an honor to play, you want 17 girls to play and that is what we did and I would do it again,” Ecker said.

No doubt Ecker wanted to win as much as anybody, she certainly does plenty of it at Archbishop Wood, but she saw the bigger picture.

The players all got to play. That is a big win for the Catholic League.

“It’s always a great experience,” said Conwell Egan’s Brennan, who was playing in her second Carpenter Cup. “The fields are nice; the competition is always great and the exposure is a great experience.”

There were several college coaches during the first two days of the Carpenter Cup. Thanks to the decision of Ecker, any college coach got to see every Catholic League player in uniform.

That is a simply one huge victory.

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