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SOFTBALL: Rounding Third, Four Teams Have Clinched; Four Clawing for Postseason In PCL

By John Knebels, 05/01/23, 11:15AM EDT



(Photos by Donna Eckert, James Quinn, Lennie Malmgren, Ryan Nix, Gabriel Petrecz & Mark Zimmaro)

PHILADELPHIA – When they came off the field following a dominant victory over the only undefeated softball team in the Philadelphia Catholic League, Archbishop Ryan celebrated on the pitcher’s mound, lined up, shook hands, and gathered privately on an adjacent hill for a postgame chat.

Despite having just upended Archbishop Wood, 8-0, on April 25 behind sensational pitching, power hitting, and superb defense, the Ragdolls were not celebrating with any noticeable exuberance.

For Ryan coach John Kidwell, his players’ balanced response to their best performance of the season supports his PCL theory.

“There are a lot of good teams,” said Kidwell. “There are a solid eight or nine teams in the league. Anyone can beat anybody on any day. We preach that. It’s one game at a time. You gotta go out and play your best or the other team can score some runs on you, and all of a sudden, it’s seven innings and you end up with the ‘L.’”

As the final week and a half beckons, representatives from each team were asked to comment on a particularly important or interesting previous league game this season.

Archbishop Ryan vs. Archbishop Wood (video/ John Knebels for PSD)

For Ryan, the win over Wood, which left the Ragdolls at 3-1 and Wood at 5-1 and also gave the Ragdolls a tiebreaker if the two teams finish tied for first, received the nod.

Archbishop Ryan head coach John Kidwell is pleased with all phases of game in victory over Wood. (Video/ John Knebels)

Pitcher Moira Maw and Catcher Maya Chambliss starred in Ryan's 8-0 win over Wood. (video/ John Knebels for PSD)

“We played pretty much a complete game,” said Kidwell. “Pitching, hitting, defense. We knew coming in that it was going to be a tough game and that we had to play all three phases really, really well. They executed and grinded at bats. They were really aggressive going for fly balls and making plays.”

Ryan's Sabrina Pastino Opens game with 2 run homer- Video/ John Knebels for PSD

Sabrina Pastino Slugged a 2-run homer to jumpstart Archbishop Ryan's 8-0 win vs. Wood. (video/ John Knebels for PSD)

Steady and efficient, sophomore pitcher Moira Maw allowed only two hits and two walks while striking out nine. Specific defensive gems were contributed by senior left fielder Sabrina Pastino, sophomore second baseman Isabella Baron, junior right fielder Emma McDermott, and senior third baseman Janine Swift.

Pastino’s two-run homer jumpstarted the Ragdolls to a 2-0 lead four batters into the game. Ryan took full advantage of uncharacteristic struggles by Wood’s defense for single runs in the second, fourth, and fifth. In the seventh, junior Mya Diorio slammed a home run, and two batters later, junior Maya Chambliss smashed a two-run shot. All three of Ryan’s homers were to dead center field.

“Overall it was a great game, of course,” said Pastino. “We knew as a team going in there that they had all the pressure on them. Reigning PCL champs, undefeated going in, on their home field. We knew that we weren’t expected to win that game and we showed our confidence in our bats and in our defense.

“We also knew going into Wood we had to attack Dakota (Fanelli, senior pitcher) early and put even more pressure on them and her, which we did. Moira pitched one hell of a game. All there is now is to keep the momentum going and bring that same confidence into Egan on Tuesday (May 2). One game at a time.”

Archbishop Wood senior pitcher Dakota Fanelli reaches 100- strikeout mark in 4-1 win over Germantown Academy on 4/26. (Photo/ Archbishop Wood Athletics)

Though losing in the PCL for the first time since last year (9-7 at Archbishop Ryan on April 21, 2022) and waving goodbye to a phenomenal 13-game PCL winning streak, Archbishop Wood’s players and coaching staff remained poised. They are preparing for key games at Lansdale Catholic and home against Cardinal O’Hara scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. 

Wood's Elise Cawley & Julia Yogis combined for 6 hits in win vs. Carroll - PSD Video by John Knebels

Carroll senior Lauren Martin was magnificent in defeat with a home run, double & 6 RBI - Video by John Knebels

Wood coach Jackie Ecker summarizes high scoring victory over Carroll - PSD Video by John KNebels

Archbishop Carroll head coach Mike Lorine saw numerous positives in tough loss vs. Archbishop Wood - PSD Video by John Knebels

After Carroll tied the game with three runs in the sixth, resilient Wood tallied three in its half and survived a bases loaded, no-out situation in the seventh. The Vikings finished with 18 hits – four of them by junior Elise Cawley – and three RBI apiece by senior Paige Ross and junior Parker Kraus.

“Going into the game I just thought about our games against them last year and I knew they were gonna be a team to beat this year,” said Wood junior infielder/outfielder Julia Yogis, who had two hits and played strong defense in left field. “Going into the game, we knew that we had to play with confidence and we had to play loose.

“I remember having so much energy that day. The moment we stepped off that bus, I knew we were ready to play. Winning that game had to be one of the best feelings so far this season.”

Archbishop Carroll vs. Archbishop Wood - PSD Game Highlights by John Knebels

In third place at 6-2 with one game remaining, Archbishop Carroll’s 6-5 victory over visiting Archbishop Ryan on April 11 necessitated a clutch home run by senior Lauren Martin in the bottom of the sixth that broke a 5-5 tie. The Patriots’ first win over Ryan since at least 2017 felt more special than simply a regular-season victory.

“This year, we have had a few big games,” said Martin, who in the aforementioned earlier loss to Archbishop Wood knocked in six runs. “Our biggest game of the year was definitely Ryan. Every time we play them I know it’s going to be a competitive game.

“I remember the game being a constant back-and-forth of hits, runs, and even the energy of both teams. I always get excited to play big games, and playing Ryan is always fun, regardless of the outcome. Also, our team played Cardinal O’Hara this past week (a 6-5 win) and the game was just as competitive. We always consider local Catholic League teams to be ‘big games’ too, because of the Delaware County rivalry.”

Now at 5-2, Conwell-Egan’s offense has imitated a yo-yo. While losing twice by shutout (to Archbishop Wood and Cardinal O’Hara), the Eagles outscored Archbishop Carroll, 10-7, and in an 11-3 win at Lansdale Catholic, they trailed 3-0 after five before waking up with seven runs in the sixth and four more in the seventh.

“Our biggest league game win so far would be Carroll,” said junior third baseman Molly Milewski. “Carroll is a very strong team. Since I was a freshman, games versus Carroll always create a very competitive atmosphere. It was our first Philadelphia Catholic League game, so it was important to start our season off with a win.”

With Ryan, Wood, Carroll, and Conwell-Egan assured a playoff spot, the current fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-place teams will battle for the final two postseason invitations.

Ultimately, if a tie results between two teams, head-to-head decides the outcome. With three or more teams deadlocked, composite records versus each other come into play. Still a tie? Look for best victory against common opponents. Currently, that edge goes to Cardinal O’Hara, thanks to the Lions’ 4-0 win at fourth-place Conwell-Egan (more on that later). 

Now in fifth place at 3-2, Lansdale Catholic faces an arduous task because its remaining opponents own the best overall record at 16-8. Along with a makeup match at 2-4 Bonner-Prendergast on May 8, the Crusaders host the PCL’s best teams with a composite record of 14-4 – Wood, Carroll, and Ryan – during a brutal one-week stretch. To have a realistic chance of making the playoffs, the Crusaders need to win a minimum of one of them, and possibly two.

The Crusaders’ 7-6, nine-inning win at Cardinal O’Hara in a league opener on March 30 might end up making the difference between going home or preparing for the postseason because the two of them are side-by-side in the standings.

“The O’Hara game was definitely our biggest upset of the season,” said LC senior catcher Sam McHugh. “The game went into nine innings with both team crushing the ball. (Cardinal O’Hara sophomore) Hayden Sissons is great pitcher and we gained a lot of confidence from the momentum of the game. We won that game because everyone contributed to our success.

Lansdale Catholic sophomore pitcher Lauren Leshak #21 reached a milestone of 100 plus strikeouts. She is pictured next to senior catcher Sam McHugh - Photo courtesy of @LansdaleCathSB

“The Egan game (an 11-3 loss despite leading 3-0 after five innings) was quite thrilling for the first five innings. It was a shame we lost our focus and Egan took advantage of us falling back on our heels. I think both those games proved anyone can beat anybody in this league.”


In sixth place at 3-3, St. Hubert’s will board lots of buses for trips to Bonner-Prendergast, Cardinal O’Hara, and Archbishop Ryan, who possess a collective record of 7-8.  

No win was more pivotal for the Bambies than a 9-5 decision over visiting Lansdale Catholic on April 13 behind a career-first, three-run homer by junior Madi Curry.

“During our Lansdale Catholic game we knew we had to jump on them early,” said senior pitcher Maura Gorman. “That game our bats were on fire and the hits were contagious. We don’t only depend on our three, four, and five hitters to knock in runs. Everyone in our lineup has a great bat and can drive in runs at any time.

“Being in the circle, I knew I had to barrel down and do my job. I always tell the girls to just do your job and I’ll do mine. I feel like if we play every game how we did in our Lansdale Catholic game, we will go far and prosper in the PCL.”

In seventh place at 2-3, Cardinal O’Hara finishes with three homes games (Bonner-Prendergast, St. Hubert’s, and Neumann-Goretti) and one away game (Archbishop Wood), a composite opponent mark of 10-13.

A 4-0 shutout at Conwell-Egan on April 20 woke up any PCL zealot who might have forgotten that the Lions, who lost out on a playoff last year because of a head-to-head tiebreaker with Lansdale Catholic, need to be reckoned with.

Junior Maddie Jones and sophomore Hayden Sissons were spectacular on the mound, with only two base runners via a single (by senior Katey Brennan) and a walk denying a perfect game. Four different hitters, including Jones and Sissons, scored in the visiting sixth.

“Because of the level of competition in the Catholic League, I think the majority of teams would agree that any win is a big win,” said senior catcher Caitlin Jordan. “Going into the Conwell-Egan game, we knew that they weren’t just going to sit down and hand us the win, and we had to play our best softball if we wanted to come away with a win.

“We had high expectations for the season, and up until that point, we hadn’t been living up to the expectations we had set for ourselves, and the Conwell-Egan win was a huge step in the right direction for us to get back on track. We knew it would be a hard game, and it absolutely was. It was one of the best games we played this year, and I am proud of my team for how well we fought for that win.”

In eighth place at 2-4, Bonner & Prendie literally controls its own destiny. They host Lansdale Catholic and St. Hubert’s along with making a visit to Cardinal O’Hara. While that trio is 8-8 overall, more importantly, those opponents pose as direct obstacles to reaching the postseason.

First-year coach Kate Dumont assessed the Pandas’ key moments.

“I would say our first big win was against Little Flower,” said Dumont, referring to a 13-3 road win on April 13, aided by a big double by senior Kristin Webb. “We rallied from behind and had a complete team effort for the win. We focused on cleaning up our errors in the field and the girls got their bats going.

“However, I think the Ryan game (14-8 loss on the road on April 18) showed everyone that we are capable of something great. We’re a young team, with a freshman pitcher (Julia Brown) who showed everyone that she belongs out there on a varsity squad. We adjusted and adapted throughout the entire game and made it a lot closer of a game than many expected it to be.” 

At 0-6, Little Flower is hoping to defeat Neumann-Goretti on May 2 for its first league win of the season. If the Sentinels perform as well as they did in a 5-4 loss at Cardinal O’Hara on April 18, coach Tori Sherwood would be pleased.

“The game against Goretti next week is very important for the team,” said Sherwood. “Our games and scores this year for PCL haven’t been pretty, but the team has been working really hard and has shown great improvement from last year. We have a few out-of-league wins, but a PCL win would be great for them. It is our Senior Day, so we are hoping to honor our four seniors (Emma Bannon, Meagan Leary, Glorimar Nino, and Katherine Vishio) with a win.


“Our game versus O’Hara was awesome. It was our best game of the season all around. We made key plays in the field and our pitching from (junior) Ava Lawrence was outstanding. Offensively, bunts were executed and we had key hits with runners on. Our (junior) centerfielder Allie Szychulski had some outstanding catches that day along with (starting) a double play.” 

Despite only nine players on the roster, Neumann-Goretti (0-5) has demonstrated fortitude and perseverance. 

“I think it's quite an accomplishment for us to hold this team together through the whole entire season with just nine players,” said coach Brian Sitongia. “I appreciate the efforts of everyone involved, from my assistant coaches to the parents and most importantly to the girls for battling and giving it all they have and for allowing us to experience this season together. I am very thankful.”

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