NEWTOWN – An old sports adage claims defense wins games. Council Rock North certainly proved this true in its second-round District One Class 6A playoff win over 11th-seeded Boyertown.
In posting their 3-0 victory, the sixth-seeded Lady Indians (15-5) showed they have all the requisite defensive pieces. They have sure-handed strong arms in the infield, outfielders who cover a lot of ground, and a poised and talented presence in the pitching circle. The combination is deadly.
Sophomore Jenna Khantzian got the starting nod for the Rock. She faced a most worthy foe in Boyertown, a team that had won five of its regular season games by at least 10 runs. In three of those conquests, the Bears scored 15 or more runs. Boyertown (13-5) knows how to swing the bats.
Jenna showed she was equal to the challenge. She scattered eight hits in her seven-inning stint. Four of the hits were the infield single variety. She struck out six batters and issued no free passes.
Going into the game, Jenna relied on a scouting report to know which of her six pitches she should throw at the dangerous Bear sluggers. “Prior to the game, we didn’t know much about them. We got a scout on their hitters, which helped me.”
An unusually calm composure also aided the young pitching ace. “I like pitching because I feel in control of the game. I feel very confident about that. Usually, I’m not the type to get really nervous. I think it is more excitement.”
Her confidence grows in part from the arsenal of pitches she has mastered. Jenna throws six pitches including a fastball, curve, change, drop, screwball and riser. Against Boyertown, she relied mainly on her curve, which led to 11 ground ball outs. “I threw mostly curves on the outside against them,” she said.
Knowing she is backed by a tight defense also helps Khantzian reduce any tension. In the fourth inning, Boyertown shortstop Alyssa Acker hit a screeching liner to left. Indian leftfielder Marissa Haynes turned, sped to her right, and backhanded what looked to be a sure extra-base hit. Jenna went right back to work and retired the next two batters.
The Bears threatened again in the top of the fifth inning. With one out and two runners aboard, North’s third baseman Taylor Briggs fielded a bunt down the third base line, instantly turned and fired a strike to shortstop Julianna Shields – who was covering third – to squelch the Bears rally.
In the bottom of the fourth, Briggs earned game offensive MVP award when she provided Jenna with all the runs she would need. Riley Sheehy led off the inning by stroking her second hit of the day. Lauren Begg followed suit, singling to left. Begg was forced at second for the first out of the inning, bringing the Indians’ cleanup hitter to the plate. Briggs worked the count to 2-0 then poled a line drive over the left field fence.
Jenna could breathe easier with a 3-0 lead. “I was happy she got that hit. It gave us a cushion. We didn’t feel as much pressure after that.”
The victory provided an extra confidence boost to a Rock team that had already captured 15 victories in the regular season. They had taken an important first step to reaching their season goals.
“We wanted to make districts and possibly states. After the game, we were really happy and proud of ourselves because the first game was behind us.”
Next up for the Indians is a quarterfinal matchup with Coatesville. “We scrimmaged them in our first game of the year. It was really cold and we didn’t get through the whole game. I think it was a close game at that point.”
Jenna has faith that the Indians will be ready. “I think we’re a strong team. I think our conditioning and placement are perfect and we all work together. That’s what I like about softball. It’s a team effort. It’s not just one person winning or losing the game. You play as a team, win as a team and lose as a team.”
With Jenna in the circle and her supporting staff behind her, the Rock is one team that appears ready to win some more.
EDITOR’S NOTE: CR North advances to face No. 3 seed Coatesville, a 4-1 winner over No. 19 Pennridge. That battle will take place at 4 p.m. Friday on the Red Raiders’ home field.
TOP PHOTO: CR North infielder Madison Tomlinson (9) gets set to tag out Boyertown runner in Lady Indians’ 3-0 win over the Bears in the opening round of districts May 24 in Newtown, Pa. (John Gleeson – 21st-Century Media)
Council Rock North 3, Boyertown 0
(May 24 at CR North)
BOYERTOWN (13-5) 000 000 0 – 0
CR NORTH (15-5) 000 300 X – 3
WP — Jenna Khantzian. HR — Taylor Briggs; RBI — Briggs 3.
MULTIPLE HITS: B — Sarah Reinert 3-for-4, Alyssa Acker 2-for-3; CRN — Riley Sheehy 2-for-3.