BY MARC NARDUCCI
PHILADELPHIA -- There were so many impressive performances over the Philadelphia Catholic League’s two-days of competition in the 18th annual Carpenter Cup softball tournament, but maybe the best came from Archbishop Wood head coach Jackie Ecker, who guided the team.
After the Catholic League was eliminated by a talented Mercer County team14-4 in a quarterfinal matchup at FDR Park, Ecker poured her heart out to the team.
She told them how proud she was and what a wonderful experience it was being their coach for this tournament.
Sure, she and the players wanted to win that quarterfinal game, but for Ecker, it always goes beyond the W’s and the L’s, especially in an all-star tournament such as this.
“It was a great group of girls who really played well together without ever playing together and they really meshed well, and they had each other’s backs,” Ecker said.
Yet beyond the playing, one could see the joy in the players’ faces. Even down nine runs late in the final game, they were cheering on their teammates until the very end.
“It was just a lot of fun and that’s what the girls kept saying, how much fun it was to play together,” Ecker said.
Isn’t that what this is all about?
The tournament is for high school girls, although graduating seniors are prohibited from playing. The reasoning is that this is a tournament that attracts several college coaches and it’s another vehicle for exposure for underclassmen.
All that is great, but the players also should come away from it with a positive experience. That is why Ecker insists that every player on her roster gets into each and every game.
Archbishop Wood head coach Jackie Ecker lauds her PCL team's positive attitude in Carpenter Cup Tournament. (PSD photo by Zack Beavers)
Plus, there was real reason for her pride. In recent years, the Catholic League hadn’t been overly competitive in this 16-team tournament sponsored by the Phillies that draws high school all-star teams from Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.
The competition is fierce and many of the franchises draw from a larger number of schools than the Catholic League.
This year, the Catholic League made it to the final day, no easy feat. There are four brackets and the top two teams from each four-team bracket qualify to the single-elimination quarterfinals.
The PCL and the Suburban One League/Bicentennial Athletic League (SOL/BAL) were both tied with 1-1 records and the winner of their game would earn the second spot from Bracket A. (New Jersey power Jersey Shore earned the first spot and would eventually reach the championship before losing 2-1 to South Jersey’s Tri-Cape).
The SOL/BAL has a formidable team, and the Catholic League had its best performance of the tournament, earning a 6-2 win and a ticket into the quarterfinals.
Carpenter Cup rules allow a pitcher to throw a maximum of four innings per game and the Catholic League duo of St. Hubert’s freshman Samantha Staublein and sophomore Hayden Sissons of Cardinal O’Hara, combined for a gem.
Staublein pitched the first three innings, allowing no hits and no runs.
“The experience is great, and it was just fun playing,” Staublein said after her team qualified.
Sissons earned the save while allowing two unearned runs in four innings, with one strikeout and one walk.
The offensive catalyst was Archbishop Carroll freshman centerfielder Colleen Lloyd, who went 3 for 4 with two runs scored.
Conwell-Egan sophomore shortstop Cecelia McBeth was 2 for 3 with an RBI and Archbishop Carroll sophomore catcher Madison Long was 1 for 4 with a team-high two RBI.
Earlier, the Catholic League had defeated Philadelphia Public, Charter, Catholic Academies and Friends League (PCCAF), 8-3 in six innings. (The games in the opening round had a one hour and 45-minute time limit, which is why it didn’t go seven innings).
The winning pitcher was Lansdale Catholic sophomore Lauren Leshak, who started and allowed one run in three innings, striking out five. Staublein earned the save, allowing two runs in four innings.
Archbishop Wood junior leftfielder Julia Yogis went 2 for 4 and junior first baseman Mya Diorio of Archbishop Ryan was 1 for 2 with two RBI.
In the quarterfinal, the Catholic League jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning against Mercer County, with the big hit being a two-run single by Archbishop Carroll’s Long.
“That felt really good, I really wanted to get those runs in,” Long said.
The Catholic League’s final run came on an RBI single by Archbishop Wood’s Yogis in the fifth inning, cutting the deficit to 10-4.
Yogis is a true Carpenter Cup veteran. She has played on the team all three seasons of her high school career.
“…This team was special, it was super fun playing with all these girls,” Yogis said. “I loved coming out, meeting everybody and I am super happy I got a second chance with them (this year), most of the time you get one day and that is it.”
Yes, getting to play with the heavyweights in the quarterfinals was a big deal.
“I didn’t realize how much it meant to me until we got to come to the second day,” Yogis said. “And this was my last time, so it meant even more.”
It meant so much to advance to the quarterfinals, not only to the players, but to Ecker as well, who appropriately summed up the entire experience.
“To make it to today (and the quarterfinal) was a big deal,” she said. “No matter win or lose they really represented the PCL well.”