PHILADELPHIA – The last time Archbishop Ryan faced Conwell-Egan Catholic (CEC) in the regular season, the Ragdolls drew five to six walks off Lady Eagles’ starter Alyssa Adams.
So before Ryan hosted Egan Wednesday evening, May 17 in a Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) quarterfinal, AR head coach John Kidwell stressed the importance of exercising patience at the plate.
The defending PCL champion Ragdolls registered six hits (to the Eagles’ five), but drew 10 walks, forcing Adams to exit the game after just five innings, on their way to an 8-0 victory that sends Ryan to a PCL semifinal date with Bonner-Prendergast Monday, May 22 at Arcadia University.
“We knew going in we wanted to work the count a little bit, see if we could get some runners on base,” said Kidwell. “All through the lineup, somebody came through with a big hit and we were able to get some runs across.”
Ryan (13-6) drew seven of those walks in the first three innings and got an RBI single from right fielder Skylar Elliot and a two-run single from center fielder Annie Cashman (2-for-4) in a three-run burst in the initial frame. With her team trailing 3-0, Adams induced a 5-2-3 double-play ball to third base by the ‘dolls DP Meghan Kid, or the damage might have been worse.
After retiring the side in order in the second inning, Adams walked the first three batters she faced in the third. CEC catcher Tori McCoach gunned down Elliot trying to steal third base and Adams got Cashman to look at a called third strike.
Just when it looked like the Eagles (8-10) might escape the inning without further damage, Ryan’s catcher Haley Burns belted a two-run double to a gap in left field for a 5-0 Ragdoll lead.
“We are starting to hit a lot better. As the season progresses, we’re getting our timing down,” added Kidwell. “The beginning of the year, we weren’t getting the hits. Today, we were relaxing, we were confident and we’re getting big hits throughout the lineup.”
Ryan put runners in scoring position in each of the next two frames, though Adams escaped further damage by inducing a groundball to short to get out of first-and-third situation in the fourth inning and inducing two flyball outs and a groundball back to the circle to retire the Ragdolls in the fifth.
Two more walks and an error loaded the sacks once again for Ryan to open the sixth inning, putting an end to Adams’ day in the circle.
Ryan first baseman Reilly Kerr followed with a two-run single up the middle and an error committed by Egan on a ball tapped to short by AR second baseman Ava Brakoniecki pushed another run across, putting the ‘dolls on top, 8-0 – the final score.
The last time the sides squared off, Ryan needed a two-run walkoff home run by Brakoniecki to win 6-5 in extra innings so no one saw a lopsided contest coming this time around.
“I thought they were probably the best-hitting team in the league,” added Kidwell. “They have a lot of speed, they have some power, some slappers. McCoach is probably the best kid in the league.
“I really thought it was going to be a one-run game. I never thought we would shut them out.”
The Ragdolls have won the last three Catholic League softball tournaments. Last year, they captured the PCL plaque with a lot of help from battery-mates Alexa Marasheski and Sara Ostaszewski. Both have since graduated with Ostaszewski, the catcher, playing at Saint Joseph’s.
With five of its players departing the starting ranks last year, Ryan figured this might be a rebuilding season. However, the ‘dolls have found their ace in the circle in freshman lefthander Sara Vargas.
The Southpaw seemed in control throughout the playoff with the Eagles, pitching a complete game with only three walks. The freshman retired the side in order in two innings and faced just four batters in four other frames.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” admitted Kidwell. “It’s always hard when you put a freshman out there, especially in a playoff game.”
Egan’s best chance to score came in the sixth inning when CEC second baseman Elizabeth Shire and DP Devyn Shire stroked a pair of two-out singles, advancing to second and third base on a wild pitch. A ball belted to centerfield by CEC first baseman Emily Wang, which initially looked like it might drop, stayed in the air a little too long, however, and it was caught for the final out in the frame.
While the Eagles committed three errors in the playoff, the Ragdolls didn’t make a single gaffe in the field.
“I have three seniors in the infield and they are hanging in there,” stated Kidwell. “Sara has some defense behind her and we got some big plays today.”
After a walk to Cori Jones to lead off the sixth inning, Ryan shortstop Emily Ostaszewski made one of them, gathering up a grounder by Adams, and stepping on second base before firing to first for a 6-3 double-play that kept the Eagles from incurring any damage, especially when the they followed with back-to-back hits.
In the second inning, with a runner on third base, CEC rightfielder Caitlin Wickham lined a frozen rope over second base that looked like it might drop. It was swallowed up by Cashman in center field for the final out, however.
On second base with two outs in the fifth inning, Wickham drove through a stop sign at third base on a single to right field by McCoach and was subsequently gunned down at the plate for the final out in the frame.
Last year, Egan toppled Archbishop Carroll, 7-6, in a PCL Tournament first-round matchup before falling to Cardinal O’Hara in the quarterfinals. With only three returning starters (Adams, McCoach, Wang), the Eagles didn’t expect to make a lot of noise in the league this season.
The Blue and White surprised everyone, however, going 8-4 in the conference matchups to earn a first-round bye in the tourney this time around.
Defending District 12 Class AA champions, Egan captured its fifth consecutive D-12 crown with last year’s 5-3 win over Philadelphia Academy Charter.
The Eagles now await a date and an opponent in order to see if there will be a sixth straight district trophy.
TOP PHOTO: Conwell-Egan Catholic senior Alyssa Adams works the circle in the Eagles Philadelphia Catholic League Tournament quarterfinal matchup with Archbishop Ryan May 17 at AR. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)
Archbishop Ryan 8, Conwell-Egan 0
(May 17 at Archbishop Ryan)
CONWELL-EGAN (8-10) 000 000 0 – 0 5 3
ARCHBISHOP RYAN (13-6) 302 003 X – 8 6 0
WP: Sara Vargas 7IP, 0R, 5H, 3BB, 0SO; LP: Alyssa Adams 5IP, 8R, 5H, 10BB, 2SO.
DOUBLES: CEC — none; AR — Haley Burns.
RBIs: CEC — none; AR — Skylar Elliott, Rielly Kerr 2, Burns 2, Annie Cashman 2.
MULTIPLE HITS: CEC — Devyn Savage 2-for-3; AR — Cashman 2-for-4.