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SOFTBALL: Great Pitching, Late Drama, and Classy Sportsmanship Lift Archbishop Ryan into PCL Final

By John Knebels, 05/20/23, 10:45AM EDT




PHILADELPHIA – The common thread among all athletic competition focuses on the bottom line: Who won the game?

Regardless of the method of victory, the team with the most points or most runs corrals almost all of the spotlight. Doesn’t much matter if the win was ugly. Doesn’t much matter who did what, or who didn’t.

As the adage states, to the victor go the spoils. 

But in an incredible Philadelphia Catholic League semifinal between Archbishop Ryan and Archbishop Wood on a windy, chilly Wednesday night, players from each team managed to win both on and off the field because of that oft-trivialized concept called sportsmanship.

More on that later.

The contest itself was an absolute classic. Down to their final out, the host Ragdolls pried victory from the jaws of defeat when junior Mya Diorio scorched a two-run double that turned a certain 1-0 loss into a surreal 2-1 win and a berth in the PCL championship against Conwell-Egan 4 PM Monday at Neumann University.

The best moment of Diorio’s life was preceded by two-out hits by junior Kayla Gray and senior Janine Swift.

Archbishop Ryan junior Mya Diorio propels The Ragdolls to PCL Final. (Video/ John Knebels for PSD)

With the crowd from both schools eerily silent in nervous anticipation, Diorio slammed her third straight hit up the left-center-field gap, scoring Gray from third and fast-as-the-wind junior Rukudzo “Rudy” Taruwinga from first.

For the third time in the last five seasons, Archbishop Ryan had found a way to reach the PCL final.

“I think everybody thinks about it,” said Diorio, responding to an athlete’s universal fantasy of contributing a walk-off winner. “It’s such an awesome feeling. Everybody wants to do it. I’m happy it happened tonight.

“I was seeing her pretty good throughout the game, so it was really to just put the ball in play and at least tie it up so we could play an eighth and keep fighting. I’m still in shock. It was just crazy. Huge rivalry between us and Wood . . . so it was even bigger.”

Diorio was referring to Archbishop Wood senior pitcher Dakota Fanelli, last year’s PCL Pitcher of the Year. Through 6 2/3 innings, an outstanding Fanelli had allowed five hits and two walks against a Ryan team that averaged seven runs a game against the other five PCL playoff teams.   

Archbishop Wood Pitcher Dakota Fanelli in semifinal game vs. Archbishop Ryan. (Video/ John Knebels for PSD)

Her counterpart, Ryan sophomore pitcher Moira Maw, was just as strong. Though she surrendered five hits and four walks – and benefitted from a huge defensive play by junior second baseman Izzie Baron with the bases loaded that ended the fifth – Wood’s only run scored on a perfectly executed walk to senior Maggie Devlin and simultaneous steal of home by senior Riley Nolan with one out in the sixth.   

For Ryan’s befuddled batters, something had to change.

“Instead of waiting for pitches to come by and get down in the count, we just took advantage of it,” said Ryan senior standout outfielder Sabrina Pastino, who had two of Ryan’s eight hits and made a smooth-running catch for the final out in the top of the seventh. “In the beginning of the game, we took first pitches for strikes, and we swung at things we shouldn’t have swung at. As we got around again and again, we realized we have to take advantage of those nice pitches that we were getting.”

Archbishop ryan senior Sabrina Pastino, losing in the semifinals wasn't an option. (video/ John Knebels for PSD)

Mya Diorio Describes the best moment of her life- a two-run, walk-off double to send Ryan into PCL Championship. (video/ John Knebels)

As Ryan squandered chances – leaving a runner on second with one out in the first, two runners in the fourth, bases loaded in the sixth – it appeared as though this just wasn’t Ryan’s night.

Then two quick outs in the seventh left it up to leadoff hitter Gray, who singled. Then Swift, who also singled to put runners at the corners. Then Diorio.

“I just believed in Mya,” said Pastino, who was the first person to embrace Diorio between second and third base. “What else can you do? There’s no point in getting down on the situations that you’re in. Gotta think of the best. Mya came up and I had all the confidence in the world in her.”

Asked about the thought of Ryan losing, Pastino – a cerebral student of the game who hates losing as much as anyone could – didn’t mince words.

“This is all I have left,” she said. “This is it. This is the last season for me and Janine over there. We knew coming into the game that Wood wanted to beat us, Earlier in the season, we beat them 8-0, something they weren’t expecting, and we knew coming into this game that we were going to battle even harder than before.

Senior Janine Swift kept the game alive with a huge two-out hit that set the stage for a dramatic finish. (Video/ John Knebels)

“They had (injured All-Catholic senior catcher) Paige Ross out. We knew that didn’t matter. We knew they were still going to fight. They still had Dakota as their pitcher. They still had all of those puzzle pieces that make them a great team. They’re still a great team. We just got it done. We knew what we had to do.”

Contacted the day after her heroics, Diorio remained on Cloud Nine and was in no rush to take the elevator south.

Archbishop Ryan Head Coach John Kidwell kept believing even when a win seemed a bit unlikely. (video/ John Knebels)

Archbishop Ryan Pitcher Moira Maw had faith the Ragdolls would find a way to win. (Video/ John Knebels for PSD)

I still have been thinking about the moment all day and even last night,” said Diorio. “I can’t stop watching the video. I still can’t even believe that it happened. I realized it would have been the end of the senior season for our two seniors, and I didn’t want it to end in the semis.”

Now, back to the aforementioned sportsmanship.

Despite being in a dreamlike state after an electric victory, Archbishop Ryan’s players made sure to temper their emotions during the traditional handshake ceremony. They knew how much the Vikings – who last year captured the PCL crown – were hurting, and despite having just won so dramatically, they made sure to honor their opponent with on-field respect and kind words afterwards.

That doesn’t always happen in high school athletics, but it did Wednesday night.

Archbishop Ryan vs. Archbishop Wood in PCL semifinal game. (video/ John Knebels for PSD)

“It was emotional from both sides,” said Diorio. “There’s a mutual respect between both teams, and we knew coming in it would be a very close game. We were all excited, but we knew to be respectful and that we could celebrate after.

“We enjoy playing Wood because they are a really good team and there’s great competition between us. We know almost all of their team, and I can assume they know us. Some of us are even friends, either from tournament or just from playing them for the last three years. During the handshakes we really just took it all in. We knew that game could go either way if we scored in different innings or they did.”

Pastino followed suit.

“For us, of course, we were excited to be going back to the championship,” said Pastino. “The handshake ceremony for me was about making sure the Wood girls were proud of themselves on how far they made it and reminding those who have another year to keep their head up.”

Archbishop Wood junior infielder-turned-outfielder-turned catcher Julia Yogis, the only Viking to reach first base twice via two walks, appreciated Ryan’s kindness.

“Although that game did not end the way we wanted it to, I’m beyond proud of my team and the way we played,” said Yogis. “We left it all on the field, and that’s all we could’ve asked for.

Archbishop Wood junior Julia Yogis. (Photo/ Lennie Malmgren for PSD)

“Shaking their hands at the end was tough. Being beat by them again – especially that way – was so tough. However, that is a really good group of girls. They were all very respectful and waited to celebrate after they congratulated us and told us ‘Good game.’

“That’s classy. I also received a text from one of their players after the game congratulating me and wishing me luck, which was also very sweet. I think that’s a great team and it was an amazing game to play in and be a part of.”


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