Led by a pair of District 1 softball champions—Avon Grove in Class 6A and Henderson in Class 5A–Chester County sends a healthy contingent of five teams to the PIAA State Tournament. Joining Avon Grove in the Class 6A state playoff is Coatesville, while Great Valley and Bishop Shanahan will join the Warriors to chase gold in Class 5A.
Avon Grove (19-5), just the number 10 seed in the district, is 4-0 in the post season, and captured its second District 1 crown in four years after reaching the title game for the third time over the same span. The Red Devils are seeking a return trip to the state championship game, where they settled for a runner-up finish a year ago after a heartbreaking, extra-inning loss.
While pitcher Rachel Butler has found a groove the past couple of games, throwing two-hit shutouts over Perk Valley and Coatesville, the Red Devils haven’t relied on any one player in their District title run.
“I can honestly say this year and during district playoffs, it has been a total team effort,” said Avon Grove Coach Mike Diluzio. “Everyone on our team has contributed at one time or another. There are familiar name on our team that people know and read about, but during the playoffs and through this year it has been a complete team effort. We are at this place because of team unity.”
Avon Grove will play Council Rock North (17-6), the fifth place finisher in District 1, in its state opener Monday at Spring-Ford High School, game time 5:30. A win pits the Devils against the winner of the Hazelton-Coatesville game.
One advantage the Red Devils will have is simple experience. They have been to the state tournament four years running, and know what it takes to make a deep run.
“Of course every coach tries to get some information or scout the team their playing, but it still comes down to players executing the game plan,” said Diluzio. “You are playing against district champs and accomplished teams. Our approach may sound like a cliche but it’s the way we believe and the way we like our players to think. Don’t think ahead—take it game by game.”
Ches-Mont champ Coatesville (18-6), finished fourth in the district, and will square off against the District 2 champion, Hazelton (19-3), a state final four team a year ago.
Dominque Ricevuto, hitting .384, Ella Vetter (.363) and Briana White (.400) are leading the Red Raiders offensive attack, while White has taken the chores in the circle, posting a 2.29 ERA.
“Throughout the districts, we’ve played great defense, got good pitching, and swung the bat well,” said Coatesville coach Bill Mendenhall. “The girls are excited to be playing in the state playoffs for the first time and believe they have the ability to make a run. I look for them to bounce back from a disappointing end of the district tournament and get back on the winning track.”
Henderson (16-8) is peaking at the right time, having played its best softball of the year in the post season. The Warriors play excellent defense, and are never rattled, as evidenced by a pair of comeback wins.
Carly Bullock (10 H, 5 R, .714 AVG, 714 OBP, 714 SLG, 1.429 OPS); Cam Trotter (2 HR, 9 RBI, 1.000 SLG, 1.500 OPS) and Kasey Collins (417 AVG, .533 OBP, .417 SLG, .950 OPS) have been hot at the plate, while Madelyn Skinner has been a steady presence in the circle for the Warriors.
Up first for Henderson is the District 3 third-place finisher, Donegal (21-3). Game time is noon at West Chester East HS. A win here and the Warriors play the winner of the Great Valley-Abington Heights game.
“I know that any team coming out of District III is going to be tough,” said Henderson coach Chris Hessler. “That’s a very strong district and they have good competition throughout their season and in their district. Donegal has been successful to for several season now and we would expect them to come prepared.”
This is the first time in program history that Henderson is playing in the PIAA tournament.
“Winning the district championship and making the state tournament is very exciting for the team” said Hessler. “This is going to be a great experience for these players and coaches. Something they will remember for a long time. It will help the younger players know what type of commitment it will take to develop a tradition of winning softball.”
Bishop Shanahan (17-7) is the third-place finisher from District 1, and square off at 2 PM against District 3 runner-up Spring Grove (18-5) at Messiah College. Should the Eagles top Spring Grove, they’d face the winner of District 12 Champ Archibishop Wood and Lampeter-Strasburg, the fourth place finisher from District 3.
Offensively, the Eagles have been able to count on lead-off hitter Katie Newton and DP Hannah Keiper to provide spark, while fireballer Devon Miller can dominate a game in the circle.
“None of us is happy with the way the district tournament finished,” said Eagles coach Ron Savastio. “Though we did play well in the third place game. But that is behind us and now everyone is looking forward to seeing what we can do to make it to a state title game.”
Great Valley (13-11) is the number four seed from District 1, and will travel to Penn State University for a 5 PM, first round clash with the District 2 champion, Abington Heights (14-2).
“Abington Heights is the back-to-back district 2 champ,” said Patriots Coach Jeff Celucci. “For us it’s all about our seniors Morgan (Orlowski) and Kasey (Bryan) who have been there two years ago. Solid performances by Erin Bevec and Alex Rubin have helped us get to the final 4 of the district. We won our first two games– a huge win over number one seed Penncrest–then a tough loss to Interboro where we made several mistakes after taking a 2-0 lead. We are very proud of we’re we are after starting the season at 1-5.”