TOWAMENCIN >> It was the at-bat that just would not end.
Owen J. Roberts pinch-hitter Emily Shaheen simply refused to go down against North Penn senior pitcher Bri Battavio in the top of the sixth inning. Battavio used everything she had, even throwing some junk pitches and they just kept getting fouled off.
The Wildcats finally had some momentum and Shaheen was doing all she could to keep it alive. Finally, Battavio got the bench hitter to pop out to short, halting the momentum.
Behind a solid outing from Battavio and some tremendous defense, the Knights held off OJR for a 4-2 win Wednesday in the second round of the District 1-6A softball tournament.
“I knew they won (Tuesday) 14-4 and no matter how you win, you’re up high and it’s hard to stop that momentum,” Battavio said. “When we played them earlier in the year, they were a very good hitting team. I’m a more pitch-to-contact pitcher, I don’t strike a lot of people out so I expected them to hit me hard and they did, but they were right at people.”
Both teams contributed a lot of hard hits balls right to defenders on Wednesday. OJR’s middle infield tandem of second baseman Bridget Guinan and shortstop Camryn Glenn each had a couple of excellent plays to rob North Penn batters of a hit.
For North Penn, it was a third inning double play and an inspired performance from center fielder Courtney Neal that led the defensive effort. Neal, a junior, doesn’t bat in the Knights lineup but her glove and range in center are just as big as anyone’s bat.
“It’s the only thing I do, so I have to make everything worth it, I have to go all-out for every single play I can,” Neal said. “Most of the batters were hitting it right to center field on a straight line so I just positioned myself.”
Neal recorded five put-outs in Wednesday’s game, including a great play on a hard-hit ball to center field that she reeled in on a charging run in.
“It was a kind of line drive but it tailed up a little bit,” Neal said. “I was coming in for it and I had to suddenly go back for it and I was able to just ice-cream cone it up in the air. It was a good play, I thought.”
OJR looked poised for a quick start when Glenn led off with a single and a two-out walk to first baseman Darby Stuart put runners on the corners. Battavio came back to get Guinan on a ground ball to third, ending the threat and shutting down the Wildcats’ carryover momentum.
North Penn was able to capitalize on the shutdown inning by plating the first run of the game. Battavio belted a two-out double on the first pitch she saw and her courtesy runner, Laura Brock, came in to score when Brittany Moyer’s fly ball was dropped in the outfield.
“We hit the ball hard all day today and it kept going right to them,” OJR coach Jen Beaver said. “(Battavio) is a great pitcher and they have a really solid team and it just didn’t go our way today. Both defenses kept both teams to few hits and some of them didn’t fall when we needed them to.”
The Knights got their big inning in the third after Emily Groarke led off with a single. Battavio walked and Elia Namey singled with one out to load the bags and Moyer cashed in with a two-run single. North Penn added its fourth run in the fourth inning when freshman third baseman Victoria Juckniewitz slammed an RBI double to the deepest part of the park.
Neal and Battavio called the 6-4-3 double play that ended the OJR third the play of the game. With a freshman at third base and sophomores Jamie Beer and Jordan Pietrzykoski at shortstop and second base respectively, Battavio said there have been times where they’ve gotten flustered defensively.
So the senior pitcher was elated to see Beer and Pietrzykoski have the confidence to make the play and knew the defensive turn was more than just an inning-ending play.
“I knew from that moment were going up high and I didn’t think we were coming back down,” Battavio said. “It’s things like that for us that keep our momentum up. I don’t know that we’ve made a double play yet in a game, so to have it in a playoff game was just awesome.”
OJR got on the board in the sixth inning with a couple of hard-hit balls that finally fell in. Guinan had a sac fly to center to score Casey Walker, who had led off with a double and pitcher Brittany Dellaquilla’s two-out single brought in Brianna Smith.
After 12 pitches, including six foul balls, Battavio finally got Shaheen out then threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning, making a quick-twitch reaction play on a laser from Glenn to end the game. North Penn hosts No. 5 Perkiomen Valley in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“It’s playoff softball, Bri pitched a great game and we made some great defensive plays,” North Penn coach Rick Torresani said. “Courtney made two huge plays and we got the timely hitting. In the playoffs, that’s what you need.”
North Penn 4, Owen J. Roberts 2
Owen J. Roberts 000 002 0 – 2 5 2
North Penn 102 100 x – 4 7 1
WP: Bri Battavio LP: Brittney Dellaquilla.
2B: Casey Walker (OJR), Bri Battavio (NP), Victoria Juckniewitz (NP).
Top Photo: North Penns Jamie Beer rounds third during the Knights’ District 1-6A second round game against Owen J. Roberts on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)