HAVERFORD >> When the weather is hovering around 45 degrees and the sun is nowhere in sight, softball hitters tend to have a difficult time hitting the ball.
“It’s a lot harder in the cold,” said Ali Murphy, Haverford High’s All-Delco center fielder/speed demon.
Amber Moscoe put that theory to test when she belted a pitch over the left-field fence at Haverford Reserve Field, an estimate distance of 230 feet.
“That was my first home run like that,” said the Fords’ junior second baseman.
Haverford’s Twitter profile includes the line, “catch us rippin’ dingers.” Well, the Fords sure aren’t pretending to be something they’re not on social media. Moscoe smashed one into another zip code Thursday.
Murphy and Moscoe highlighted a 10-hit attack by the Fords, who defeated Central League foe Strath Haven 13-3 in five innings on a miserable, so-called spring afternoon.
Murphy was the tablesetter, going 4 for 4 with four singles, three RBIs and three runs scored. She took second base on three of her knocks, showcasing awe-inspiring blazing speed and athleticism. Tess Smiley’s two-run knock in the fifth inning enacted the 10-run rule and sealed Haverford’s second straight win.
“I want to hit the ball wherever I can and whatever it takes for the team,” Murphy said. “I see where the fielders are (positioned) and I’ll keep running if I have to.”
Murphy is one of those players who is her own base coach. She has confidence in her ability to take the extra bag and cause havoc. Infield hits turn into adventures, and when defenses play her in, good luck because Murphy knows exactly how hard she has to barrel the ball to put it in the outfield grass.
“She hypes up the whole team,” Moscoe noted.
Murphy is one of the better players around, period.
“In my opinion, she is a contender for Central League player of the year. She’s been all-league two years in a row,” Haverford coach Jill Marshall said. “She goes all-out, all the time and she is a threat in every aspect of the game.”
The Fords (4-3 overall, 4-2 Central League) are in the process of figuring out exactly how good they can be. The reigning Central League champions have endured a few tough losses in the opening month of the season — don’t ever bring up Monday’s game against Upper Darby — but the pieces are there to make another run at the league title.
“Every game is about trying to get better and trying to learn as much as possible,” Marshall said. “We have girls who know how to push each other. Lauren (Meyer), Ali and Amber … they are the three who are all setting the tone and leading by example.”
Make no mistake, the Fords are a young team. Their top two pitchers are newcomers Annabelle Donato and Hannah Hermansen, who tag-teamed mound duties Thursday. Donato went the first 2.2 innings before running out of steam. Hermansen entered in relief and allowed no hits the rest of the way.
“We have 13 freshmen total (in the program) this year,” Marshall said. “Annabelle and Hannah are a good duo. They’re learning together and getting the experience. They’re a righty and lefty, too. They’re very supportive of each other. We know we’re going to be able use them a lot this year.”
Meyer tripled and two scored runs. Lexi Culbertson smacked a double and ripped an RBI single, while Mel Falotico chipped in two knocks, including a two-run single.
On the flip side, Strath Haven (3-3, 3-3) is looking to reach Haverford’s level someday soon. It wasn’t long ago that the Panthers were a perennial Central League cellar dweller. First-year head coach Jim Bender, who was an assistant in prior seasons and coached many of his players as youths in the Nether Providence Athletic Association, sees the hard work paying off. Last spring the Panthers made their first district playoff appearances in almost two decades. First baseman/pitcher Malia Calciano is one of the top sluggers in the conference. Brooke Bender is a sound catcher and hitter. The Kane sisters, Ella and Hazel, are big a part of the team’s future along with speedy centerfielder Cayden Fraizer, a softball novice.
Calciano pounded two hits against the Fords, while Bender added an RBI single. Ella Kane, who pitched the final 1.2 innings, smacked a triple and scored a run.
“We’re teaching them never to give up, no matter what,” Bender said. “We want them to act like a team, win or lose. The mindset is different (this season) and we do have expectations. We’re hoping to get better and continue to build off the momentum set by last year’s team.”
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