DOWNINGTOWN—Coming off a quarterfinal win over Kennett where they overcame a seven-run deficit with late inning rallies, the No. 3 Henderson softball team was looking at a similar situation against No. 2 Bishop Shanahan, trailing 2-1 headed to the sixth, with Eagles’ ace Devon Miller throwing gas to the tune of 10 strikeouts over the first five innings.
But the Warriors loaded the bases with one out on three straight bunts. After Miller collected her eleventh strikeout to make it two away, up walked Brooke Espenshade. After running the count to full, Espenshade took a cut at an outside curveball, and sent it to the wall in right to clear the bases and put Henderson up 4-2, a score that held up as the final.
With the victory, Henderson advances to the first District 1, Class 5A title game, the first district title game in program history, where they will meet No. 4 Interboro, a 5-2 winner over Great Valley in its semi, at Harriton High School Thursday at 4PM.
“I talked to Brooke right before she went up,” said Henderson coach Chris Hessler. “I told her ‘You’re going to knock in the winning run for us” and she did. I couldn’t be more happy for her and the whole team. That inning we just changed the mentality at the plate. Miller was doing a job on us, but that inning we just changed it to yes, yes, yes, let’s put the ball in play. Good things happen when you put the ball in play.”
Still, Miller was a mere strike away from escaping the inning unharmed. Espenshade would have none of it.
“Hitting has always been a top priority for me,” said Espenshade. “I just kept waiting for a pitch I liked. Two strikes never bothers me. I knew we had the bases loaded, so all I really had to do was make contact and get it out of the infield. I want to give a shout out to my dad, Greg. He’s always been my coach and my biggest fan. I’m just thrilled for our team today.”
Shanahan struck first with a run in the first. Katie Newton led off with a single just over a pulled in infield, and moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt from Miranda Bedics. Miller was next, and ripped a single to center to score Newton, moving up to second on the throw home. Emma Calabro, in as a courtesy runner for Miller, came into score when Casey McAllister reached on an error.
That was about the last time that Henderson had an issue with defense. The Warriors played fantastic defense the rest of the way, making every play they could, from the routine to the spectacular.
“We always look at defense as our safety net,” said third baseman Cameron Trotter, whose RBI double in the fourth put Henderson on the board. “If we keep playing good defense, we stay in the game until our bats come around. We just came back from down seven. Down one was nothing. But being able to come back on someone like Devon definitely gives us confidence going forward. She’s one of the top pitchers we’ll see.”
Miller took the loss, but threw well. She allowed four runs on two hits while striking out 15 and not walking a batter.
“I hope she understands she didn’t let us down at all,” said Shanahan coach Ron Savastio. “We wouldn’t be here without her. We just have to forget about this, get third tomorrow, and be ready to play in states. That’s when it really counts.”
Madelyn Skinner picked up the win in the circle, going seven strong. Skinner allowed two runs on five hits, striking out five, including three straight in the sixth after Hannah Keiper led off the inning for Shanahan with a double.
“Coming into this season, we really focused on defense,” said Trotter. “But we’ve really stepped it up offensively as the season went on. We’re all just really looking forward to playing in district finals, and then get to play in states. This season has really meant a lot to me and all of us.”
Henderson 4 Bishop Shanahan 2
Henderson ab r h bi Shanahan ab r h bi
Collins—SS 3 1 0 0 Newton—C 4 1 1 0
Bullock—CF 3 2 0 0 Bedics—RF 3 0 1 0
Abbonizio—LF 3 1 1 0 Miller–P 3 1 2 1
Trotter—3B 3 0 1 1 Weyand—CF 3 0 0 0
Espenshade–C 3 0 1 3 McAllister—1B 3 0 0 0
Ciarocchi—RF 3 0 0 0 Keiper–DP 3 0 2 0
Hunt—DP 3 0 0 0 Peterson—LF 3 0 0 0
Golden—2B 3 0 0 0 Weston—3B 2 0 0 0
Skinner–P 3 0 0 0 Sano–SS 2 0 0 0
Gray—FX/1B 0 0 0 0 Croccetti—FX/2B 0 0 0 0
Totals 27 4 3 4 Totals 26 2 6 1
Henderson 0 0 0 1 0 3 0 –4
Shanahan 2 0 0 0 0 0 0–2
IP H R BB SO
White (W) 7 6 2 2 5
Miller (L) 7 3 4 0 15