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SOFTBALL: Refusing to Lose, Conwell-Egan Seizes Second Straight PCL Title

By John Knebels Photos: Richard Barnes, 05/28/24, 10:45PM EDT



(PSD photo by John Knebels)


(Photos/ Richard Barnes for PSD)

ASTON – No matter how much time separates them from recording the last out and celebrating a championship, their memories just keep getting richer.

It’s been a little over a week since Conwell-Egan outlasted Archbishop Ryan, 10-5, in eight innings to win their second straight Philadelphia Catholic League softball title at Neumann University. Even though their season continues – the Eagles captured the Class 3A District 12 championship May 28 to advance to the PIAA state playoffs – the PCL recall continues to dominate the minds of those who participated.

Heck, even last year’s PCL crown maintains bountiful shelf life.

“I still find myself thinking about both championships in different aspects through my daily life sometimes,” said Conwell-Egan first-team All-Catholic senior third baseman Molly Milewski. “It just comes out of random spurts.

“Last year, it was so amazing because it was the first one in a very, very long time. I also remember (star slugger and current Seton Hall University Big East Freshman of the Year Katey Brennan) hitting a homerun in the game last year.  This year, we had a target on our backs because we were defending it. The celebration is still so memorable since it was a huge moment. After the game, Coach Hart treated us with Rita’s after.”

Making their fourth straight PCL visit, Conwell-Egan came close to partaking in a horror show.

2024 PCL Softball Championship Highlights (Part 1) - PSD Video by John Knebels

2024 PCL Softball Championship Highlights (Part 2) - PSD Video by John Knebels

Having come back from a 3-2 deficit by scoring three runs in the top of the seventh, the Eagles led, 5-3. After two quick outs, C-E was a mere one strike away from realizing their season-long goal. And then, with visions of sharing another championship with teammates and gathering for a victorious team photo at home plate racing through their minds, glee turned into despair.

After Ryan senior and PCL position player-of the-year Mya Diorio avoided making the last out by fouling off a handful of two-strike pitches before getting plunked by a fastball, senior teammate Maya Chambliss put herself in the PCL annals of most-clutch moments when she blasted a mega-high two-run homer well over the left-field fence to tie the game at 5-5.

“My heart dropped, as I’m sure most of my teammates’ did, too,” said Milewski. “But then my mindset changed. Then it became – get the last out, and then hit the ball.”

The Eagles did precisely that, albeit with a few fortunate bounces. Three consecutive infield singles by Milewski (two hits, walk, two runs scored), second-team All-Catholic sophomore Angelina Pandolfi (hit, walk, two runs scored), and first-team All-Catholic junior Amariah McKnight (3-for-3, two walks, two runs scored, RBI) loaded the bases with no outs. A single by first-team All-Catholic junior Cecelia McBeth (two hits, two runs scored, RBI) gave the Eagles a 6-5 lead.

Lady of the Hour: Senior Lauren Bretzel pitched & hit CEC to a championship Clothing delivery- her 3rd career personal PCL title - PSD Video by John Knebels

Conwell Egan sophomore Deanna Porter contributed key RBIs in both the seventh and eighth innings in the PCL Championship - PSD Video by John Knebels

Up stepped Lauren Bretzel.

En route to making PCL history, the second-team All-Catholic senior pitcher – fresh off a sensational offensive/pitching performance in the semifinal win over three-seed Archbishop Carroll – roped a line shot down the right field line that landed about three feel fair and rolled to the wall. Three runners scored and Bretzel, serenaded by her jovial teammates going ballistic, slid in safely with a bases-loaded triple. Sophomore Deanna Porter, whose seventh-inning single had given the Eagles a 5-3 lead, added a 10th run on a sacrifice fly.

“I looked at Coach Hart, and Coach Hart said, ‘Pull it to right,’” said Bretzel. “So I just had that mindset to pull it right, and I kept running until I knew to stop.”

Her legacy loudly painted by participating in four straight finals and contributing to three titles, Bretzel became the first player in PCL softball history to win a championship with two different teams. As a freshman at Archbishop Ryan in 2021, Bretzel pitched one inning of relief and logged the last out to clinch the Ragdolls’ 10-6 victory over Conwell-Egan. After transferring to Conwell-Egan during the summer, Bretzel was part of the 2022 crew that lost a 3-2 decision to Archbishop Wood in the final as well as last year’s team that pulled out a 6-3 title game win over Ryan.

Bookending her PCL career in ridiculously sentimental fashion, Bretzel tossed a complete game championship win, allowing only seven hits, no walks, and three earned runs with four strikeouts – two of them coming in the eighth inning.

Thus, the statistics of Bretzel’s last two PCL games were no less than herculean and, in all likelihood, historically unmatched.

At the plate, she went a blistering six-for-eight with a double, triple, walk, and seven runs batted in. On six occasions, sophomore Lauren Berard replaced Bretzel as a courtesy runner and eventually crossed the plate. On the mound, Bretzel pitched 15 innings and surrendered only six earned runs and 14 hits while not walking a single batter.  

3-sport star Conwell-Egan senior Molly Milewski played in 4 straight PCL finals - PSD Video by John Knebels

Conwell-Egan’s Amariah McKnight reached base all five of her at bats - PSD Video by John Knebels

Conwell-Egan coach Sandy Hart summarized Bretzel’s amazing feat.

“She came to play,” said Hart.

And as her players came to play – outhitting the powerful Ragdolls by 15-7 along with five walks and numerous perfectly executed bunts – Hart and her staff came to coach.

In winning her 12th PCL championship since taking over as coach in 1994, Hart, never a person to embellish, admitted that this title contains momentous significance.

“Ranks up there as one of the best,” said Hart. “They kept coming back. We have a team that battles, and when you have that, anything can happen.

“We kept telling them, ‘Stay off the high stuff. Slow down on offense. Don’t get up to bat and swing at the first couple of pitches. Slow the game down offensively.’ We kept within striking distance.”

When the last out of the game descended from the heavens and settled into the glove of aforementioned shortstop Cecelia McBeth, the long-awaited celebration – about 30 minutes later than expected – finally commenced.

“That last out, it’s the best,” said Hart. “It’s everything you work for. It’s just the best.”

With 12 championship wins under her belt, no one could know better than Sandy Hart.

(Contact John Knebels at or on ‘X’ (formerly Twitter) @johnknebels.)