SELLERSVILLE >> Two down, three to go.
It’s a big week for Pennridge softball and not just because the Rams are now in the midst of a five games in five days stretch. Prior to beginning the gauntlet on Monday, they sat 26th in the District 1-6A power rankings, with only the top 20 moving on to the postseason.
So with five games this week and two big ones next week, the Rams have the opportunity to win their way in.
For a program that hasn’t qualified for the postseason during the careers of any of its current players, that’s the goal. Pennridge has found its stride the last few weeks and the Rams kept it going on Tuesday with a 7-4 win over visiting Abington at Druckenmiller Park. The Rams are now 7-8 on the season.
“We have three more games this week, but I think we’ve got it,” Pennridge senior third baseman Sam Harty said. “We’re really pushing and coming together. We pulled together these last few weeks, we came together as a team and now we’re really starting to hit the ball. We just need to keep our defense up and I think we’ll be good.”
Pennridge, which started its week with a win over Souderton, finishes the week with games against William Tennent, at Dock Mennonite and home against Central Bucks West. Next week holds the two tests, road games at North Penn and Quakertown, two teams firmly in the postseason picture.
For the moment though, the Rams and especially their seniors, are enjoying the ride. After a slow start to the season, Pennridge kept tweaking and working at things both in the batting order and defensively in the field. Eventually, everything seemed to click.
Not only are the Rams trying to earn their way to the postseason, but they’ve already improved upon last season’s record.
“Our personalities came together and we’re having a lot more fun than we had in the beginning of the season,” Harty said. “In the beginning it was more everyone trying to better for themselves and now we’re playing as a team. We’ve played together through clubs and organizations our entire lives so all the years together have really helped.”
The Ghosts, who were 24th in the latest power rankings, had a chance to fight their way in as well, but a loss to Council Rock North on Monday, coupled with Tuesday’s setback likely spelled the end of that. Abington has just one senior on its roster, so coach Ellie White wants to use the remaining games to eye up next year.
“We have to play for pride now,” White said. “I need to see who wants it. If they come out here and they don’t want it, we’ll find a new group of kids next year. I really need to see who wants to be here and who doesn’t and I think the next three games will prove that.”
White added that she’s seen that desire in all her players at points during the season but the Ghosts haven’t been able to get everyone on the same page for an entire seven innings.
While Pennridge has a number of key seniors like Harty, Bauer, Grace McGinley and Krista Yerk, the Rams also have some underclassmen that have seized key roles. Kailyn Bell has complemented Bauer in the pitching circle while junior Skylar Hengeveld has been a capable catcher and cemented herself as the cleanup hitter. Kiley Watson, a sophomore, has taken over at shortstop and hit leadoff on Tuesday.
Harty said the team’s outfielders, all new starters, have shown a lot of growth during the season. Left fielder Logan Scott had a double Tuesday, right fielder Alyssa Motts had two RBI and center fielder Mary Kate Levush has made some fantastic defensive plays.
“It’s all the new things we’ve tried the last two years,” Harty said. “The coaching switch (prior to last year) helped a lot and we’ve been able to bring new girls in. We’re there to back each other up.”
Harty has been a shortstop almost as long as she’s been playing, and even played the position her first three seasons with Pennridge, but as the infielder with the quickest and surest hands, coach Carol Atkinson asked her to move to third. The senior has been tremendous defensively and is on a tear offensively, with two hits Tuesday, she’s playing her best ball at the twilight of her career.
“We go into games with more confidence. We have more fun. When we’re laid back and loose, that’s when we’re having our best games,” Harty said. “We’ve made a few changes in our lineup and it’s helped us a lot. I feel more confident at third for some reason, I haven’t made any errors so far and it’s been pretty fun.”
Atkinson said the entire group has been a lot of fun to coach and that when she or one of her assistants asks something, it gets done.
“These last two weeks, our hitting has come around, the girls have the confidence and it’s been amazing,” Atkinson said. “They’re a great group and they’ve come together very well these past few weeks.”
Even if the Rams win out this week and snag at least one of those games next week, they’ll probably need a little help from the teams ahead of them to get in. While Harty and her classmates would love to break the postseason drought, the senior said she just wants the team to finish strong.
“We just want to pick (the underclassmen) up, there have been plays that were difficult, but if you’re there to pick them up they’ll get right back to it,” Harty said. “We already beat our record from last year and I hope next year, the girls next year can build off this and keep it going.”
Pennridge 7, Abington 4
Abington 001 020 1 – 4 5 4
Pennridge 301 120 x – 7 8 2
WP: Meghan Bauer. LP: Tori Brandenburger. SO-BB: P – Bauer 1-1, Kailyn Bell 1-2; A – Brandenburger 1-0, Megan Burdziak 1-0.
2B: Logan Scott (P), Megan Burdziak (A), Skylar Hengeveld (P). Multiple Hits: P – Skylar Hengeveld 3-3, Sam Harty 2-3; A – Jess O’Neil 2-3.
Top Photo: Pennridge’s Kiley Watson tags Abington’sJulie Burkhart as she tries to steal second base during their game on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)