RICHLAND >> North Penn resembled a team eager to get back on the field — any field in fact.
What should have been a home game for the Knights was moved over to Quakertown due to wet conditions, and North Penn traveled well.
“We were so hyped on the bus and really excited to come in and play,” said the Knights’ Emily Groarke. “We wanna go to states so bad and we worked really hard and did what we could to win.”
Groarke singled from the leadoff spot and came around to score in the Knights’ first at-bat, and North Penn never let this one out of its control, pulling away to a 5-1 victory over Quakertown in a District 1-6A Playback Game at Veterans Park.
The fourth-seeded Knights are one win from states, and they’ll get a chance to earn that Thursday when they host No. 6 Council Rock North.
“We hadn’t been on the field since our loss on Saturday,” Knights coach Rick Torresani said of the Knights’ 1-0 quarterfinal loss to Perk Valley, “and that was such a devastating loss. That was such a great game.
“And I knew coming in that (Quakertown) was gonna be ready to play — they beat us last year and knocked us out (in the second round of districts). We were hoping to get the clutch hit and if (Quakertown) made a mistake, we could capitalize on it. And that’s what happened. This was a good game for us, to prepare us for (Thursday) against North.”
North Penn broke the game open in the fourth and fifth innings.
Brittany Moyer looped a singled to shallow center and — with one out — Amanda Greaney also singled to center. When Panthers center fielder Tara Baglivo bobbled it for a second, Moyer raced home to score, putting North Penn in front for good, 2-1.
Jamie Beer poked one to left for the Knights’ third hit of the inning and after a fielder’s choice, Groarke stepped to the plate with two outs and runners at first and third.
A tremendous hustle play by Jordan Pietrzykoski allowed North Penn to increase the lead. On a ground ball by Groarke, the Panthers tried to get the force at second but Pietrzykoski’s slide beat the throw, allowing Greaney to score to make it 3-1.
“I think we were all really confident at the plate,” said Groarke, who had a pair of hits against Quakertown starter Tori Caputo. “We had seen this pitcher and we knew what we had to do to come in and win.”
In the fifth, North Penn immediately put two runners on, as Bri Battavio singled and Elia Namey drew a walk. With two outs, and runners at second and third, Quakertown had a chance to get out of the inning but Nikki Vanelli threw high to first, and two runs scored to widen the gap to 5-1.
“It gave us a good cushion,” Groarke said.
After an RBI double by Nikki Vanelli in the third made it 1-1, it was all North Penn. Quakertown’s best chance to score after that came in the fourth, when Halle Frederick reached on an error and Sarah Stofik belted a double to give the Panthers runners at second and third with no outs.
But Battavio would bear down, getting Jocelyn Fafard to ground out, Bri Lefkoski to hit an infield fly and Baglivo to fly out to center.
And Beer, who had the error at short, played a tremendous defensive game otherwise, as did the other eight.
“Jamie got a couple more balls where she made some great plays,” Torresani said, “so she didn’t let (the error) affect her.”
The loss marked the end of a good ride for No. 9 Quakertown.
“It was a good game,” said Panthers coach Rich Scott, whose team lost 15-6 to NP back in April but had this one notted at one apiece in the fourth. “I told the girls before the game that it’s gonna come down to who makes the fewer mistakes. We had some opportunities and that doesn’t help either, when you leave runners on base.
“This group of girls is amazing. In the beginning of the season, if you would have told me we would go this far, I would say that’s amazing. It’s a great bunch of kids, just loved coaching every one of them.”
Abbey Schwartz and Vanelli drew consecutive walks to start Quakertown’s fifth, but Battavio and the Knights retired the next eight batters to close out strong, and move within one win of states.
“I hope we make it,” Groarke said. “(Thursday’s) a big game.”
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