MARPLE >> Caroline Manfre has one more chance to win a Catholic League championship.
Manfre, a three-sport athlete at Bonner & Prendergast, has enjoyed playing for many talented volleyball, basketball and softball teams throughout her high school years. When she was a sophomore, Manfre was a member of the basketball team that advanced to the PIAA tournament for the first time in program history.
Manfre was in the eighth grade the last time the Pandas won a PCL softball title in 2013.
After a 4-0 blanking of Cardinal O’Hara in the Catholic League quarterfinal round Wednesday, Manfre and the Pandas moved one step closer to realizing their dream. Bonner & Prendie (15-5) will play Archbishop Ryan in the semifinal round Monday at Arcadia University.
“That’s the one thing I want to go out of high school with, a Catholic League championship,” said Manfre, the Pandas’ slick-fielding shortstop. “Playing three sports all these years, I’m dying to get one.”
Manfre made a highlight-reel catch and throw to double up O’Hara’s Julia Kush at second base to end the game. The cleanup hitter got the Pandas on the board with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, singled in the fifth and scored on a wild pitch in the seventh.
“Defense was a key because their hitting is awesome,” Manfre said.
For the second time this month, however, O’Hara’s offense was nonexistent against Bonner & Prendie pitching. The Pandas blanked the power-hitting Lions, who feature the senior All-Delcos and All-Catholic trio of Maura Kane, Annemarie Banes and Emily Loomis, in a 1-0 game earlier this month that lasted a cool one hour and four minutes.
“I’ve been playing a lot with them (O’Hara’s seniors) since I was young, so I know how scary they can be,” Manfre said.
Prendie junior Meghan Sullivan shut the Lions down. Sullivan gave up two hits — a single each by Kane and Loomis — and struck out three in a complete game effort.
“They’re a great team, but we really came out strong,” Sullivan said. “We knew they would come out strong because we beat them the last time, so our main focus this week was defense. It’s great to be able to beat them twice.”
Sullivan worked the inside part of the plate to force the Lions into making weak contact.
“I was jamming them a lot and throwing the ball inside,” she said. “Then I would throw my fastball which goes down and outside. They couldn’t hit it, I guess.”
Defense has been a hallmark for the Pandas this year. They were picture perfect in both games against O’Hara, although they had struggled in recent games. According to coach Tom McNulty, the Pandas had committed a combined 17 errors in their last three Catholic League games prior to Tuesday.
The Pandas’ defense was impenetrable against O’Hara, as was the case first time the teams met.
“This win says a lot about everything, offense and defense,” said junior third baseman Kaitlyn Martin, who reached base three times and scored her team’s second run on a wild pitch. “We haven’t had offense and defense (clicking) at the same time, but today it was all working for us.”
The Pandas’ Molly McNulty contributed a single, an RBI and a run scored from the leadoff position. Allison Martin was 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
The Lions uncharacteristically kicked the ball around in the field (five errors). Junior starter Jenna Smith allowed only one earned run on six hits while walking three and striking out one.
Defeating O’Hara twice in the same season is pretty sweet, but Bonner & Prendie has bigger goals in mind.
“We didn’t want our season to be over yet,” Martin said. “This is for the seniors, they deserve to go far. It’s been a while since we’ve been in the semifinals, so that’s nice to get back there. We want to keep on winning.”
In another PCL quarterfinal:
St. Hubert 7, Archbishop Carroll 6 >> Erin Hogan’s bases-clearing triple in the seventh inning gave the Bambies a come-from-behind win over the Patriots, who had overcome a 4-1 deficit with two runs in the fifth and three in sixth.