FALLS TWP., Pa. – Six-time defending District 1-AA softball champion Bristol lost five seniors to graduation last year including three starters so there were some who doubted the Lady Warriors would win a seventh consecutive D-1 crown.
The top seed in Class AA, Bristol put all those fears to rest with today’s convincing 5-1 triumph over No. 2 seed Calvary Christian at Pennsbury High School.
“It never gets old,” said head coach Mike Lalli. “It’ll get old if we don’t win them.
“We expect to get this. We expected to get to this point and we expected to win the game because our kids have just played lights out all year long.”
Indeed, the Warriors haven’t lost a game, pushing their record to 21-0, staked by a 12-strikeout performance by junior righthander Cara Fabiano.
“Cara is an outstanding pitcher,” said leadoff hitter Tianna Brewington. “She throws hard. She follows through with every pitch and she does it every single inning.”
It was Brewington getting Bristol started, offensively, with a walk, a single and a pair of runs scored. A senior, she walked to lead off the first inning and scored on Fabiano’s grounder to third base. With the Warriors hanging on to a 2-1 lead in the sixth, she led off with an opposite field single to left, and scored along with Fabiano on an error committed on a ground ball slapped back to the circle by freshman Kacie Pinelli, giving the champs some breathing room.
For Pinelli, it was her second RBI in the battle. She pushed her first run across, giving Bristol a 2-0 lead with a one-out home run over the centerfield fence in the fourth inning.
It was a big moment for the first-year player.
“I was pretty nervous coming into the game,” said Pinelli. “Hitting the home run was just unbelievable; I’m very blessed.
“But I knew it was gone the moment I hit it. Rounding third and giving (Coach) Lalli a high-five, that was the best feeling ever.”
The Warriors were a mixed bag of veterans and newcomers this season. Brewington returned to the lineup along with Fabiano and sophomore Hailey Sweeney, who closed out the D-1 championship in the circle by retiring the side in order in the seventh. Senior Bryanna Vearling also returned but did not assume any of the pitching duties like she did last year.
The newcomers included Pinelli at first base, classmate Rachael Freas at second, and sophomore Destiny Brophy at third along with juniors Gabby Quici and Kendall Lewis in the outfield.
“This year’s team is the youngest team that Lalli’s had in years and we have a lot of raw potential,” explained Pinelli.
“All of us girls, especially for how young we are, we definitely show a strong, shocking punch.”
Lalli says it all happened pretty fast.
“They jelled pretty early on,” the coach said. “This has been a pretty good unit from the get-go.
“They have goals in mind and they know what it takes so the young kids come in pretty seasoned and they just fit in with the older ones.”
Sweeney just might be the glue that binds the veterans with the newcomers. She’s a second-year player but plays like an upperclassman. With Pinelli waiting on third base in the sixth inning, she brought the freshman home with a sac-fly to deep left field, sending the score to its 5-1 final.
Calvary Christian scored its only run in the top of the frame with shortstop Amelia Johnson (2-for-3) scoring on pitcher Carolyn Stauffer’s sac-fly to center field. A sophomore from Yardley, Johnson slapped a one-out double to reach base and was the only player with two hits in the game.
The Cougars put runners at the corners with two outs in the fourth inning but left them stranded when Fabiano recorded her ninth strikeout in the title tilt.
From here, Bristol advances to the state’s PIAA Class AA Tournament set to begin Monday, June 5 when the Warriors take on District 12 runner-up – either Conwell-Egan Catholic or Philadelphia Academy Charter – at a place and time to be determined.
Bristol outpaced District 3 champion Greenwood in the first round of states last year but lost to District 11 champ Williams Valley in a PIAA quarterfinal matchup. Unbeaten on the 2016 season, the Vikings went on to win the PIAA Class A Championship.
District 1 Class AA Softball Championship
Bristol 5, Calvary Christian 1
(May 31 at Pennsbury)
CALVARY CHRISTIAN (17-4) 000 001 0 – 1 3 1
BRISTOL (21-0) 100 103 X – 5 4 1
WP: Cara Fabiano; LP: Carolyn Stauffer
EXTRA-BASE HITS: CC – Amelia Johnson 2B; B – Kacie Pinelli HR, Rachael Freas 2B
MULTIPLE HITS: CC – Johnson 2-for-3; B – none.