PHILADELPHIA >> Erin Gallagher, with the sun-faded hat, dirt covering different parts of her uniform and a hole torn into the right knee of her pants, fit the classic description of a softball player Wednesday afternoon.
Suburban One League/Bicentennial Athletic League coach Heather Boyer might be a little biased, because she’s also Gallagher’s coach at Upper Dublin, but the rising senior is the type of player needed at the Carpenter Cup. The showcase tournament requires players to fill a variety of roles, sometimes in a single game.
Thanks to a big game by Gallagher at the plate Wednesday morning, the SOL/BAL survived into the afternoon where its run ended in a 15-0 loss to Lehigh Valley at FDR Park in South Philly.
“It was a really great experience, especially getting to meet other girls from the other conferences and play with people you usually wouldn’t get the chance to,” Gallagher said. “We all played really well in the first game and it felt like we were working well together to get the job done.”
After going 1-1 on Tuesday, the SOL/BAL went into Wednesday morning’s game with Chester County with both teams needing to win in order to keep playing. Chester County, which was short-handed with a handful of players away at a travel tournament in New Jersey, had no answer for SOL/BAL pitcher Angelina Sherba.
Sherba, a rising senior at Central Bucks West, struck out seven and allowed just three hits in her four allotted innings of work against Chester County. She also joined Gallagher and Bristol’s Cara Fabiano as part of the SOL/BAL hit parade with a triple in the fourth inning.
Sherba didn’t pitch in the finale, but coupled with a strong showing against a hard-hitting Tri-Cape team on Tuesday, it was a good couple of days for the Bucks’ left-hander.
“I’ve never faced her coaching but this was her third game for us and there’s something about her where girls just have a hard time figuring her out,” Boyer said. “She’s very deceptive, good outside movement on the ball and hitters really struggle.”
In the spring, Boyer asked Gallagher to pitch for Upper Dublin, despite it being outside the infielder’s usual comfort zone. Still, she stepped up when needed for her team and the Cardinals finished over .500 and were in the hunt for a playoff spot late in the season.
During the Carpenter Cup, Gallagher avoided the circle, playing a little outfield and infield on Tuesday and a lot of third base on Wednesday. Batting cleanup against Chester County, she also mashed the ball, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Her two-run base knock was the big hit in a five-run fourth inning that put SOL/BAL up 7-0.
“Erin pitched every game for us at Upper Dublin and she’s a very good third and first baseman, as she’s exhibited here but she will do anything and everything that’s asked of her,” Boyer said. “She does a nice job of finding a way to get on base and put the ball in play. It doesn’t what her stats say, she just wants to make things happen.”
Being able to focus on her bat was a welcome respite for Gallagher, who was joined on the roster by UD teammates Meghan Muth and Brianna Parker.
“It shows that even though we were only together a short amount of time, we were able to come together and play as a team,” Gallagher said. “It was a little quiet at first but I think once we all got to know how we play and got talking about who else we knew and our schools, it brought us together.”
Fabiano, a rising senior at Bristol, had hit the ball hard all tournament but didn’t have much to show for it until Wednesday morning. Her sac fly that plated Emily Groarke (North Penn) in the first gave SOL/BAL an early lead and it was a hard-hit grounder off her bat in the fourth that led to a two-run error before Gallagher’s two-run hit.
Fabiano also belted a two-run triple in the sixth inning against Chester County and had one of the team’s only two hits against Lehigh Valley.
“We had a couple kids start to be a leader and pick it up and I think that started to be a little more contagious,” Boyer said. “That’s important, you need to know your teammates are rallying behind you in an important situation and they were moving in the right direction.”
In the afternoon game, the SOL/BAL ran into a buzzsaw offense in Lehigh Valley. A 2-1 winner over the PCL in their morning game, Lehigh Valley mixed patience with power against SOL/BAL, slamming four triples in the first two innings to open up a 7-0 lead.
With the SOL/BAL arms running on fumes, Lehigh Valley also worked counts and drew eight walks in the game, six of them coming in the team’s eight-run fourth inning that helped bring about an early ending in the fifth stanza. Springfield Township’s Mary Kate Smith walked and stole second in the third as the only SOL/BAL batter to reach scoring position while Dock’s Theresa Beck singled in the fifth inning for the team’s other hit.
Boyer has been the SOL/BAL coach for a number of years, so Gallagher heard plenty about the Carpenter Cup from teammates the past few years and decided she wanted to see what it was about. While she would have liked to have gone further in the tournament, it was still worth the trip for the soon-to-be-senior.
“It’s a really great experience,” Gallagher said. “Anyone who can do it should come to try out and play.”
Top Photo: Upper Dublin’s Meghan Muth attacks a high fastball for SOL/BAL during the Carpenter Cup on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (Rick Cawley/For Digital First Media)