CHELTENHAM >> In the scant instances where it appeared that Bonner & Prendergast junior pitcher Meghan Sullivan was beginning to lose her grip on the game, Kerri Quinn was right by her side.
The senior second baseman had her pitcher’s back the whole way.
Whether she knows it or not, Quinn’s solo trips to the circle in Wednesday’s Philadelphia Catholic League final at Arcadia University were very important to Sullivan. And those visits came at the most opportune time for the Pandas.
It’s worth emphasizing that Sullivan didn’t need many words of encouragement against St. Hubert. For most of the afternoon, she acted like an ace, with both her skill and demeanor.
Sometimes, though, you need a little help from your friends.
“I’ve been playing with Meg since I was very little. My dad used to coach us in in-house (leagues) at Dermond (Field in Drexel Hill). We used to be on the same team for everything,” Quinn said. “I know when she gets a little frustrated. I used to catch for her when I was younger, too, so I just kind of knew when she gets a little frazzled that she just needed to breathe and take her time.”
Sullivan heeded her friend’s advice. With the tying runner on third, and two down in the bottom of the seventh, Sullivan struck out St. Hubert’s Jordan Frye and clinched Bonner & Prendie’s second Catholic League title since 2013 with a 3-2 win.
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) May 24, 2017
St. Hubert got its first two hitters on board in the seventh. After the Bambies tossed away an out with a sacrifice bunt, leadoff hitter Lindsey Davies hit a grounder to third baseman Kaitlyn Martin, who made the correct decision to throw to first and get the sure out instead of trying to nab the runner breaking from third.
It was one of those smart, underrated plays that will never show up in a box score, and a play that could have saved the inning from turning into a disaster.
“It was really nerve-wracking, especially in that situation,” said Martin, who singled twice and scored a run. Her twin sister, Allison, had a walk and played well defensively in centerfield. “I knew we needed an out. Going home (in that situation), I could have missed it and they could have been safe. I knew I had to throw it to first.”
No harm done. Sullivan did the rest.
“I was talking a lot to myself, trying to talk myself up, I guess,” said Sullivan, who struck out six while allowing only two hits. “My second baseman Kerri Quinn was right there saying it to me, too. It doesn’t take much to hype me up, I guess, but sometimes it can get a little nerve-wracking.”
This was the first Catholic League championship in the careers of Bonner & Prendie’s senior class (they were in eighth grade the last time the Pandas won it all). For Quinn and shortstop Caroline Manfre, finally getting over the hump was well worth the wait.
“For field hockey, this year we went to the semifinals and the year before that we got to the finals and lost to O’Hara,” Quinn said. “It’s exciting. I’ve been wanting this for all of my four years and it’s awesome to get one, finally.”
Manfre played volleyball and basketball at Prendie and was teammates with some great athletes, including Daily Times Girls Player of the Year Alyssa Monaghan, currently a guard at Saint Joseph’s.
“We were saying all year: let’s not get into the drama that some teams will get into and let’s just play our game,” Manfre said. “We kept everything together.”
The senior shortstop made a spectacular diving stop in the fourth inning to prevent a run from scoring. Manfre dove to her left to prevent a hit up the middle and had the wherewithal to use her glove to tag second base for the third out.
“Kerri was at second and she was calling for the ball, but my arm kind of got stuck behind my back,” Manfre said. “So, I was kind of crawling to the base and was able to tag it.”
Bonner & Prendie did all of its damage at the plate in the first inning, scoring three runs on three hits off Davies. Molly McNulty led off with a single and Kaitlyn Martin reached on an infield hit. With two down, Sullivan went the other way to right field for a two-run single. A fielding error enabled the Pandas to score a third run.
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) May 24, 2017
“I knew that coming in, they were a great-hitting team,” Sullivan said. “Coming out strong and getting those three runs really boosted my confidence and the team’s. I knew that they were ready to play and I was ready to play. Going into the bottom of the first, yeah, I was definitely a lot more confident with three runs than if it was zero-zero.”
The only real mistake Sullivan made all day — she was squeezed by the umpire all day, but persevered — was a one-out triple off the bat of Frye in the first inning. Frye would score St. Hubert’s first run on an RBI grounder.
“She pitched unbelieveable,” Kaitlyn Martin said. “I know the way she pitches because we play on the (Delco Rage) tournament team together all throughout the summer. She pitched amazing. She kept her composure, even when she got into tough situations.”
The Pandas’ season isn’t over yet. Wednesday’s victory clinched a berth in the PIAA tournament next month. But before states, the Pandas will play for a District 12 Class 4A title against a Public League team next week.
Top photo: Members of the Bonner & Prendergast softball team pose with the Catholic League championship plaque after Wednesday’s 3-2 victory over St. Hubert at Arcadia University.