FLEETWOOD – In Bristol Borough, softball is more than a game. It is a family affair and one that usually goes in a winning direction. This year’s high school team proves a good case in point.
Bryanna Vearling, co-captain and four-year starter for the Lady Warriors, summed up this athletic reality, saying, “It’s different than playing for any other school because we are so small and we’ve played together for so long. I just graduated on Tuesday and I am no longer going to be playing with the girls I’ve been with since the start. I am watching the girls who are younger grow. It’s literally a family in Bristol.”
With that familial sense, comes some real caring. “Everyone knows everything that is going on. You can play a game on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, you can have people texting you and asking how the game went. It’s just nice to have people who are so interested in what’s going on in your life and how you’re playing and supporting you.”
The Bristol softball family certainly must be proud of the Warriors’ accomplishments this year. Coach Mike Lalli’s battlers finished the regular season with an unblemished 20-0 mark. They scored 10 or more runs in 16 of those games. Bristol pitching recorded eight shutouts and never allowed more than three runs in any given contest. Every player on the team batted .300 or better. They won the District One Class 2A championship and made it all the way to the state semifinal game.
Ironically, Bryanna feared the dream season might never have existed. Numbers going into preseason were low. “Me and the other captain, Tianna Brewington, were a little sketched out because we didn’t know if we were going to have a softball team. Then tryouts came and a lot of new girls came out. Once we saw what we had, we were nervous but we started building confidence in all the girls. By the fourth or fifth game, the confidence was fully built.”
By the time they played rival Dock Mennonite, the Warriors knew they were living up to the Bristol legacy of winning softball. “A big game was when we played Christopher Dock at their school. I think we beat them 13-2. That game gave me the biggest boost of confidence in the team because they have been our biggest rival over the years. It was nice to see the young kids pull through.”
Kacie Pinelli was one of the rookies drawing particular praise from her captain. The freshman led the team in hitting with a .576 batting average, 45 RBIs and 11 home runs.
“Kacie Pinelli was a huge help this year, especially being our third batter. She always pulled through.”
The two senior co-captains certainly added their own contributions to a squad whose team batting average was .440. Bryanna batted at a .537 clip with 29 hits, 19 RBIs, six doubles, five triples, and a pair of homers. Tianna Brewington followed with a .517 average, 30 hits and 30 RBIs.
Bryanna’s competitive nature undoubtedly inspired her teammates. “Once you’re in the games and playing, there’s a different level of competitiveness. I like when there are intense games like our state quarterfinal against Fairfield. I just love that level of energy and competitiveness. I love being in close games when it gets down to the last play.”
Bryanna played a crucial part in the 4-3 win over Fairfield when she cut a runner down at home plate with a perfect throw from her centerfield position. “I will always remember the quarterfinal game when I made the throw to home and Tianna (Brewington) got the girl out. That would have tied the game.”
Unfortunately the magic did not last as Bristol ran into a hot-hitting Minersville team in the state semifinal. The Battlin’ Miners scored early and scored often as they pounded out 17 hits in a 15-0 four-inning victory. “We were confident going into the game but Minersville was just the better team.”
Though disappointing, the loss did not break Bristol’s togetherness. “I’ve never bonded with a team like this before. We got along really well and everyone picked everyone else up. This was definitely a team I will always remember. It was my senior year and we went 23-1 and made it to the semifinal. This team has a lot of talent and these girls have a lot to work with.”
Despite graduating, Bryanna knows she will never leave the Bristol softball family. “After the game, I was crying my eyes out. I didn’t want to look at everyone because that was the last high school game I was going to play. I told them that next year, I’d be at all the playoff games because it’s where I grew up and it’s who I am.”
Bryanna is obviously one stellar performer who knows the true value of being part of a team.
TOP PHOTO: Bristol freshman infielder Rachel Freas (22) can’t get tag down in time to nip Minersville baserunner Emily Graeff (21) June 12 at Lyons Field near Fleetwood, Pa. (John Gleeson – 21st-Century Media)
PIAA Class 2A Semifinal
Minersville 15, Bristol 0 (four innings)
(June 12 at Lyons Field)
MINERSVILLE (23-2) 363 3 – 15 17 0
BRISTOL (23-1) 000 0 – 0 2 2
WP — Maura Bentz; LP — Cara Fabiano.
DOUBLES: Minersville — Abby Shoffstall, Emily Mealey, Alli Polinsky, Bentz.
TRIPLES: Minersville — Shoffstall.
RBIs: Minersville — Shoffstall 3, Bentz 3, Mealey 2, Maggie Wigoda 2, Adrienne Kroznuski, Polinsky, Emily Graeff.
MULTIPLE HITS: Minersville — Kroznuskie 3-for-4, Mealey 3-for-4, Polinsky 3-for-4, Shoffstall 2-for-2, Bentz 2-for-3, Wigoda 2-for-3.