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SOFTBALL: After a Unique Regular Season, Playoff Quarterfinals Offered More Drama As Semifinals Beckon

By John Knebels, 05/15/23, 1:45PM EDT


PCL Postseason Already Off to an Exciting Start


(Photos by: Jahmir Dunbar, Geanine Jamison, Brendan Baldwin, James Quinn & Mark Zimmaro for PSD)


PHILADELPHIA – A unique regular season catapulted into the Philadelphia Catholic League softball quarterfinals yesterday. The Final Four, therefore, have been determined.

Three-seed Archbishop Wood blanked visiting six-seed Cardinal O'Hara, 4-0, while four-seed Lansdale Catholic notched an exciting 5-4, eight-inning win over visiting Archbishop Carroll.

Earlier, top-seed Conwell-Egan and two-seed Archbishop Ryan had received a first-round bye after two tiebreakers – head-to-head and best record versus the higher seeds – separated three teams (Conwell-Egan, Archbishop Ryan, and Archbishop Wood) that finished with the same record of 7-2. 

Though both squads finished 6-3, Lansdale Catholic had earned the four seed over five-seed Archbishop Carroll because of an 11-7 victory on May 4. A strong close by Cardinal O’Hara had allowed the Lions to snare the sixth and final spot.

After successfully playing the spoiler role, Bonner-Prendergast nabbed seventh. St. Hubert’s placed eighth, Little Flower ninth, and Neumann-Goretti 10th.

For top-seed Conwell-Egan, who will host four-seed Lansdale Catholic in the semifinals 3:45 on May 17, senior centerfielder Katey Brennan is hoping to ultimately advance to the PCL championship for a third straight season.

“We are so excited to be the number-one seed,” said Brennan, the prohibitive favorite to nab a second straight Most Valuable Player award. “Our bats seem to have woken up as the season has gone on, and we hope to continue that throughout the playoffs.

“I think that having a bye in the first round is definitely an advantage because it gives us time to practice more and work on things we need to perfect before Wednesday.”

Signature Wins: The Eagles opened the season by besting Archbishop Carroll, 10-7, on April 4, and came back from a 3-0 deficit in the sixth inning to defeat Lansdale Catholic, 11-3, on April 11. They later stunned visiting Archbishop Ryan, 10-4, on May 2.

Archbishop Ryan, the PCL champion five of the past eight seasons, has appeared unbeatable at times. The Ragdolls, who will meet visiting three-seed Archbishop Wood 6:30 on May 17, won their last four games by a composite 54-7. Each of their seven victories were by a minimum margin of four runs. In wins over three-seed Archbishop Wood and four-seed Lansdale Catholic, Ryan smashed a total of seven long balls by five different players.

Lansdale Catholic in Game vs. Archbishop Ryan, (VIdeo/ John Knebels for PSD)

“I would say that it gives our team even more confidence than before,” said senior right fielder and sure first-team All-Catholic Sabrina Pastino. “We know we can get it done, as we have before. And, of course, we’re gonna continue to fight harder and harder to win another PCL championship.

“For me, it’s my last ever PCL playoffs, and I know not only for me, but for (fellow senior third baseman Janine Swift), we’re pumped more than ever.” 

Signature Wins: The visiting Ragdolls blanked Archbishop Wood, 8-0, on three home runs and shutout pitching by sophomore Moira Maw, on April 25; they slugged four more homers in an 11-5 victory at Lansdale Catholic on May 9.  

Ryan Sophomore Izzy Baron slugged one of 4 Ragdoll homers in 11-5 win over Lansdale Catholic. (Video/ John Knebels)

Ryan Sophomore Moira Maw pitched a complete game and homered in 11-5 win over Lansdale Catholic. (video/ John Knebels)

Signature Wins: The visiting Ragdolls blanked Archbishop Wood, 8-0, on three home runs and shutout pitching by sophomore Moira Maw, on April 25; they slugged four more homers in an 11-5 victory at Lansdale Catholic on May 9.  

Defending champion Archbishop Wood played a particularly brutal non-league schedule in hopes of remaining sharp throughout the season. The Vikings were also a third seed before winning three games to capture the 2022 title.

In their 4-0 quarterfinal win over O'Hara, senior pitcher Dakota Fanelli struck out 13.

Archbishop Wood in game vs. Cardinal O' Hara. (video/ John Knebels)

 A two-run single by senior Biz James helped fuel the offense and advanced the Vikings to a semifinal bout 6:30 Wednesday at Archbishop Ryan. 

"Pitch by pitch," said Fanelli. "I just trusted my catcher and trusted my fielders to make every play, and they did."

Archbishop Wood pitcher Dakota Fanelli trusted her defense in win over O'Hara. (Video/ John Knebels)

Archbishop Wood Pitcher Dakota Fanelli achieved 400 strike out in game vs. Neumann-Goretti. (Photo/ Jahmir Dunbar)

“Lansdale Catholic is peaking at the right time," said Fanelli. "Conwell-Egan is always a threat that sparks at this time of year, and Archbishop Ryan is a solid team that comes ready to play every time. However this plays out, each team has given the Catholic League something to talk about.”

Defense and hitting by shortstop Riley nolan helped wood upend O'Hara

Catcher Paige Ross was key in Wood's victory over O'Hara. (Video/ John Knebels)

Signature Wins: The visiting Vikings blanked last year’s PCL finalist, Conwell-Egan, 6-0, on April 13, followed by a 12-10 slugfest at Archbishop Carroll a week later. They upended Monday’s playoff foe, Cardinal O’Hara, by 11-1 at home on May 4.

Lansdale Catholic opened the eyes of the PCL with a torrid five-game winning streak from April 20 through May 8, during which sophomore pitcher Lauren Leshak recorded three shutouts.

Then, against Archbishop Carroll in the quarterfinals, sophomore Nicole Tralies went 3-for-5 and singled home the winning run in the bottom of the eighth for a walk-off win. Senior Ella Moran knocked in two fifth-inning runs as the Crusaders climbed back from a 3-0 deficit. LC will travel to Conwell-Egan for a Wednesday semifinal.

Lansdale Catholic's Lauren Leshak pitched great game vs. Bonner-Prendie. (video/ John Knebels)

Nicole Tralies aided LC's win over Bonner-Prendie with bat and glove. (Video/ John Knebels)

LC Senior Sam Mchugh reflects on her 2 homers in 6-2 win over Wood. (Video/ John Knebels)

“I was kind of nervous," said Tralies. "When the hit came off the bat, I knew it would drop and that we won the game." 

The single scored freshman Julia Gottshall was running for junior Brooke Spofford, who got the big moment started with a one-out single.

Signature Wins: The Crusaders surprised visiting Archbishop Wood, 6-2, on May 2, and 48 hours later, did the same against visiting Archbishop Carroll, 11-7.

Lansdale Catholic in Game vs. Bonner-Prendie. (Video/ John Knebels for PSD)

Lansdale Catholic coach Paul Suder compliments Bonner-Prendie after 3-0 victory. (Video/ John Knebels)

Archbishop Carroll’s 6-3 record could have been much different with a break here of there. Their three losses, all of which remained close throughout, were by a composite nine runs.

“I think first-round games are definitely tricky because you have to play three games instead of two, but a first-round win will provide our team with a little more momentum to carry us to the final,” said senior shortstop Lauren Martin, a few days before the tough defeat. “The ‘underdog’ label is something that our team strives on.

“Being a lower seed in a first-round matchup makes us want to prove something, and being an ‘underdog’ gives our team more of a drive as we enter into the playoffs.”

Signature Wins: The host Patriots defeated Archbishop Ryan, 6-5, on April 11, for the first time in several years; they then survived a 6-5 nail biter over Cardinal O’Hara on April 25.

Cardinal O’Hara began with two close defeats – 7-6 in nine innings against visiting Lansdale Catholic, and 7-3 at Archbishop Ryan. The Lions then won five of their last seven, successfully defeating visiting St. Hubert’s, 6-0, on May 9 to clinch a playoff spot after a two-year layoff.

Cardinal O'Hara Sophomore Audrey Groh slugged her first varsity home run in game vs. Wood. (video/ John Knebels)

“What I would say about our game with St. Hubert’s is, our team has worked incredibly hard over the past couple months, and being able to see all that hard work pay off on the field is great to see,” said winning pitcher Hayden Sissons, a few days before the quarterfinal defeat. “It came down to the wire. I am so happy our team secured the win to get into playoffs. It gives our seniors another chance to step onto the field Monday and continue their high school career.” 

Signature Wins: Proving that pitching is just about everything, the Lions’ best two wins were via shutout, 4-0 at Conwell Egan on April 20, and in what amounted to a regular-season playoff game, 6-0 over St. Hubert’s on May 9.

Bonner-Prendergast got hot at the wrong time. The Pandas emerged as a legitimate threat during their last three games. After losing at Cardinal O’Hara, 11-9, on May 2, the Pandas played spoiler two days later with a 7-2 win over a visiting St. Hubert’s desperate for late-season victories. They then pushed visiting Lansdale Catholic to the brink in their season finale before dropping a 3-0 decision.

“We just couldn’t get our bats going today,” said first-year coach Katie Dumont. “The last two games, our bats were strong and our infield was strong. We’re playing better. We’re a young team. We have a freshman pitcher (Julia Brown) and she’s getting better each game.”

Signature Win: The Pandas played spoiler against St. Hubert’s, 7-2, on May 4.

Bonner-Prendie played well down the stretch for first-time head coach Kate Dumont. (video/ John Knebels for PSD)

St. Hubert’s remained alive for a postseason berth until losing at Cardinal O’Hara, 6-0, on May 9 amid a season-ending, three-game losing streak, during which the Bambies managed only two runs.

Losing one senior and looking forward to a host of talented underclassmen suggests that St. Hubert’s will be back in familiar territory starting next spring.

“Missing the playoffs for first time in 11 years as a coach in the PCL stings,” said Hubert’s coach Dan Milio. “With the standards expected of this program, it’s my job to make sure it never happens again.”

Signature Win: The Bambies beat visiting Lansdale Catholic, 9-5, on April 13.

Growing pains limited Little Flower to a 1-8 record. The Sentinels displayed promise in a 5-4 loss at Cardinal O’Hara on April 18. On May 2, Little Flower defeated Neumann-Goretti, 13-3, behind strong pitching by junior Ava Lawrence, who struck out a season-high 10.


“I was a great day for Senior Day,” said Little Flower coach Tori Sherwood. “Our four seniors got to start and play the whole game, each getting on base multiple times. It was a full team effort to put together 13 runs.

“It was very important. They have worked very hard this year and I wanted them to know they have the ability to get a win as team. Winning isn’t everything, but all of their hard work deserved at least one win in the PCL. We have a strong core of juniors, so I hope next year we can pull together and work towards a few more wins.”

Signature Win: The Sentinels defeated visiting Neumann-Goretti, 13-3, on May 2. 

Neumann-Goretti only had nine players on their roster, yet somehow the Saints kept it together to complete a regular season. Major credit to first-year coach Brian Sitongia for believing in his program, trusting the nine players to remain committed, and showing definite improvement as the season progressed.

The Saints’ most competitive PCL game was a 13-3 loss at Little Flower on May 2.

“We gave up eight runs in the first, but from that point on through the rest of the way into the sixth inning, we played a 5-3 game,” said Sitongia. “We were maybe a hit here or there away from getting it back into the under 10-run situation, where we could have extended the game and played on, but we just were unable to do that.

“Our (senior) pitcher, Savannah Pacetti, got two huge strikeouts in the bottom of the fifth when they could have put it away, but she extended us into the sixth, which was really good and tough to do with the bases loaded.”

Signature Win: The Saints defeated visiting non-league opponent Kensington, 14-4, on April 10 as Pacetti struck out a career-high 11 and added a two-run homer.



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