LANGHORNE – Neshaminy might be missing a handful of players from last year including a pair who took their game to college but don’t kid yourself, the Lady Skins are as solid as ever.
Neshaminy opened its season strong on Friday, March 24, shutting out Suburban One League (SOL) American Conference rival Upper Moreland 7-0 behind the complete-game performance of righthander Amber Brugger.
Part of a strong junior class for the Skins, Brugger limited the Bears to just three hits and two walks in seven innings pitched. After walking a batter in the second inning, she struck out the side swinging and, after a one-out single in the fourth, she fanned two more batters on her way to a nine-strikeout performance.
Brugger is part of a lefty-righty tandem in the pitching circle for the Skins that includes southpaw Sarah Dowalo, who has committed to Villanova.
“We have two very capable pitchers,” stated Neshaminy head coach Dave Chichilitti. “It’s a huge advantage in league play where you have to play people twice to give (opponents) different looks, even give them different looks throughout the game – lefty-righty.
“They both do something a little bit different.
Offensively, the Skins – who hadn’t even scrimmaged before the opener – put plenty of baserunners on board in this duel but had a hard time getting a clutch hit until senior shortstop Hunter Hart slapped a 2-run single up the middle with the bases loaded in the fourth.
“It was nice to have sun and be outside on the field but it was a little bit windy and miserable,” added Chichilitti. “It took away from being able to bat and some of the offense.”
It was a 4-0 game when Neshaminy junior Hallie Duffy came off the bench to stroke a one-out bases-clearing double to right-centerfield with the sacks jammed again in the sixth inning off Upper Moreland relief pitcher Brianna Byard.
Duffy had two strikes on her when she came up with the clutch hit.
“I know that (Coach) Chic is really looking for somebody that can just come in cold and do what they have to do,” said Duffy. “That’s just what my goal was when I went up there.
“When I have two strike son me I just try to keep a relaxed mindset, because I know if I let that get in my head it probably won’t go so well.
“I just stay calm and know that if something is going to come my way, I’m going to put my best effort behind it.”
Duffy finished the game with two hits – she led off with a single in the fifth, a double and three RBI. Hart was 3-for-4 with a double and a pair of RBI. Junior rightfielder Alexis Watkins was 2-for-4 with an RBI double to left field that pushed freshman Lianna Jones across the plate in the second inning. Jones led the frame off with a double of her own to right field.
UM starter Jen Sadowski took the loss for the Bears after surrendering four runs on 10 hits, giving up three walks and recording two strikeouts in four innings pitched. Byard surrendered three runs on four hits in two innings pitched.
With the Skins on top 2-0, Upper Moreland put a pair of runners on base in the third inning when second baseman Maddie Mull stroked a two-out double that nearly cleared the fence in right field. Mull made it to third base on a wild pitch and Byard reached first on a walk, putting runners on the corners. However, Brugger got catcher Chloe tice to foul out to deep right field for the final out.
The Bears are coming off a 13-4 season and a first-round exit to Bishop Shanahan in the District 1-Class 3A Tournament. Neshaminy is coming back from a 17-3 campaign and a first-round exit to West Chester East in the D-1 Class 4A tourney.
The Skins made it to the District 1 quarterfinals in 2014 and 2015 but have not made states since 2013 when righthander Lauren Quense (Fordham) dominated SOL National foes in the circle. Chichilitti thinks this group is solid enough to return to the PIAA Tournament in 2017.
“That’s our goal, always – to qualify for states,” said the coach. “If we’re playing our best softball, you put four good games together, anything can happen.”
The Skins take the field for the first time without the services of shortstop Sophie Beretski (Kutztown), outfielder Mackenzie Compton (Providence) and outfielder Olivia Zaino.
Last year, Neshaminy pulled off a dramatic late-season 2-1 triumph over SOL National Conference rival William Tennent to capture its second straight league title and fourth in five seasons. After that, they were stunned however in a 2-0 loss to 19th-seeded West Chester East.
“We won our league and had gotten a bye so we had high hopes but it all ended really suddenly,” said Brugger. “We were all sad about it but we’re ready to come back this year.
“We want to win the SOL, make the playoffs and we just want to see how far we can get this year – win playoffs and hopefully make states.”
In addition to recording the pitching win, Brugger scored the winning run with a leadoff single in the first inning, reached second on a passed ball, third on a wild pitch, then came home on a single to left field by sophomore centerfielder Olivia Fee.
It was an impressive performance on its face, one made even more remarkable when one considers the fact that these girls hadn’t seen any live game action since last fall.
Next up for the Lady Skins is SOL Continental Conference rival CB South March 30 at home. Upper Moreland will host Bicentennial League rival Lower Moreland Monday, March 27.
Neshaminy 7, Upper Moreland 0
(March 24 at Neshaminy)
Upper Moreland 000 000 0 – 0 3 0
Neshaminy 110 203 X – 7 14 1
WP — Amber Brugger (N) 7IP, 0R, 3H, 2BB, 9SO; LP — Jen Sadowski (UM) Sadowski 4IP, 4R, 10H, 3BB, 2SO.
MULTIPLE HITS: N — Hunter Hart 3-for-4, Hallie Duffy 2-for-2, Watkins 2-for-4; UM — none.
RBI: N — Fee, Watkins, Hart 2, Duffy 3; UM — none.