TOWAMENCIN >> The ball shot off the end of Paige Paciolla’s bat and time froze for a few seconds.
Once the ball went in then out of the glove of Pennridge shortstop Kiley Watson, who had jumped as high as she could and extended her arm as far as she could, North Penn was in motion. Jordan Pietrzykoski charged home from third base and with an emphatic hop, touched home plate for the walk-off victory.
Pennridge and North Penn played a fantastic softball game Friday afternoon and thanks to some late heroics, it was the Knights who got the much-needed result with a 5-4 win in eight innings.
“We really needed to win, we were starting to get a little down on ourselves,” Knights third baseman Victoria Juckniewitz said. “Once we got that comeback, I think it showed things could change for us.”
SOFTBALL FINAL (8 inn): North Penn 5, Pennridge 4
Knights walk it off on Paige Paciolla’s single pic.twitter.com/PoNzJVQbfS
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) April 20, 2018
Juckniewitz was a key player in the clutch finish for the Knights, who trailed 4-2 midway through the sixth inning. The Knights hit three solo home runs, one from Juckniewitz and two from catcher Amanda Greaney and Juckniewitz forced the extra inning with her RBI double in the bottom of the seventh with two outs.
North Penn (6-3, 4-2 SOL Continental) had lost three games in a row entering play on Friday, including SOL Continental contests against Souderton and Central Bucks South earlier in the week. With the Rams (6-2, 3-2 Continental) coming in winners of their last three, it was imperative that North Penn find a way not only to snap its slide but also keep Pennridge from getting another game up in the conference standings.
“We’ve had leads and every one of those games we gave up a big inning to the other team so we needed this one,” Knights coach Rick Torresani said. “That’s a very good team and this is a huge win for us.”
Sure, there were nine total runs scored but both teams’ pitchers performed very well. Rams senior Kailyn Bell didn’t let any of the North Penn home runs spiral into a big inning and the right-hander struck out seven while working through a couple tough spots.
On the home side, freshman Mady Volpe was locked in. She left a couple pitches in the zone, which the Rams cashed in on, but the righty struck out 14 Rams batters, including three in a row in the top half of the eighth after Juckniewitz tied the game.
“Her screwball was perfect,” Greaney said. “It was coming in right on the plate and if they tried to swing at it, it was a little dink or a fly ball, nothing was going out when she threw that screwball pitch inside.”
While both teams played well on Friday, only one of them could win and the Rams had to take the setback in stride. Pennridge had eight hits, including a two-run home run by catcher Skylar Hengeveld in the fourth inning and a pair of doubles by Ally Motts, the first turning into a run and the second plating a run and an RBI single from Watson.
Rams coach Carol Atkinson said one of the umpires told her it felt like a playoff game and she knew her team didn’t lose for lack of effort.
“There’s nothing to be sad about, it was a great game and North Penn is always a good team,” Atkinson said. “It’s motivation. Monday is another big game with Council Rock North and they need to keep their heads high and try to keep the momentum going. You’re not going to win everything.”
Greaney staked the Knights to an early lead with a two-out solo home run to the leftmost part of center field in the bottom half of the first inning. That held as the only score until the fourth when Hengeveld blasted a two-run shot to straightaway left giving the Rams a temporary 2-1 lead.
The lead only lasted to the bottom half of the frame when Juckniewitz led off with a laser down the left field line and over the fence. Watson put the Rams back up when she drove in Motts in the top half of the fifth and Pennridge added an insurance run when Motts doubled home Emily Hegen an inning later.
North Penn got a crucial defensive play on that Motts double, with center fielder Courtney Neal starting a relay that ended with Greaney tagging out a second runner at home for the third out of the inning, also keeping a fifth run off the board.
Bell did a nice job of keeping the Knights off balance the first few times through the order. North Penn had to adjust and Greaney saw something as she pumped her second solo homer, to nearly the same spot, in bottom of the sixth.
“We had to go up in the box because we noticed every time she would pitch, it would drop right as it got to the plate,” Greaney said. “If we stepped up and crowded the plate, we knew we could hit anything.”
Paciolla led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk, but was erased when the next batter hit a liner to short for a double play. Down to their last out, the Knights turned to senior Emily Groarke and the leadoff batter delivered by dropping a single into shallow right field.
Pinch-runner Gianna Costello came on for Groarke after one pitch into the next at-bat and then with two strikes against her, Juckniewitz delivered with a long double to center field, scoring Costello for the tying hit.
“I was just thinking I have to do whatever I have to do, especially as the second batter, I have to get on any way I can,” Juckniewitz said. “My goal was to score that run because we really hadn’t been doing that during the game until then.”
After Volpe rang up the Rams in order, Pietrzykoski led off by hustling out an infield single. A sac bunt and an error moved the second baseman to third with one out and Paciolla due back up. The sophomore designated player battled, seeing six pitches before finally connecting and giving the Knights the win.
“She hit it hard and the base runners did everything right, they stopped to make sure they wouldn’t get doubled off and then took off running,” Torresani said. “That was a heck of an at-bat, especially against a really good pitcher.”
“Her confidence was starting to go down, she didn’t think she could do it and we were all telling her she could do it, just put it in play,” Juckniewitz said. “With the past few losses, we were all kind of down but I think with today, that’s going to change.”
NORTH PENN 5, PENNRIDGE 4
PENNRIDGE 000 211 00 — 4 8 3
NORTH PENN 100 101 11 — 5 8 0
SO-BB: NP – Mady Volpe 14-2, P – Kailyn Bell 7-2. HR: NP – Amanda Greaney (2), Victoria Juckniewitz; P – Sklyar Hengeveld. 2B: NP – Juckniewitz, P – Ally Motts (2). Multiple hits: NP – Amanda Greaney2-3, Victoria Juckniewitz 2-4 ; P – Ally Motts 2-3, Emily Hegen 2-4.
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