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Archbishop Wood can’t ring Archbishop Ryan’s Bell in PCL semifinal loss

PHILADELPHIA >> Archbishop Wood softball coach Jackie Ecker knew things would be different.

With the No. 4 seed Vikings facing No. 1 seed Archbishop Ryan in the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals, Wood needed a win to keep its season going a few more days. Even though Ryan was the higher seed, the Vikings had won their regular season meeting in the most dramatic of fashion with a walk-off grand slam.

Replicating those conditions was hard enough on its own but when the pitching of Ryan’s Dana Bell factored in, it was the Ragdolls taking home the win, 3-0 on Wednesday at La Salle University.

“She’s real good, I knew it would be a different game than we had last time,” Ecker said. “Last time, we played in 40 degree weather and nothing was moving. This time it was and we couldn’t get the bat on the ball.”

Bell was for the most part, untouchable. The freshman right-hander faced the minimum number of batters, gave up just one hit and struck out 11 Vikings in a coldly efficient outing that had more than one observer commenting how in control Bell was.

In the few instances where Bell got deep in the count, running four batters to three balls, she kept coming back to get the out. Wood shortstop Gianna Lancellotti was the only Viking to reach, hitting a single in the fourth inning.

Even then, things went against Wood. After initially misplaying the ball, Ryan right fielder Tori Slook came up firing and managed to throw Lancellotti out as she tried for second base to end the inning.

“The second time around, you get to see her a little more,” Lancellotti said.

For the first time in three seasons, Wood’s campaign ends short of the District 12 and PIAA playoffs although this was actually the furthest the Vikings had advanced in the PCL playoffs in that span. After finishing second and then first in the league’s regular season, the Vikings dropped to fourth this year.

A couple key injuries hit Wood at the wrong time, leading to a couple of league losses but the Vikings stuck together.

“We’re really good with that, we’re close as a team so we help each other out with that kind of stuff,” Lancellotti, a junior, said. “It gives us a lot of confidence knowing how well we did throughout the season and also that we have each other’s backs.”

Senior Marisa Browne battled in the pitching circle for Wood, still working back from a badly sprained ankle that kept her out for a handful of games late in the season. Browne, who has signed with Drexel, gave up six hits but retired the last nine Ryan hitters in order, showing some of the form that made her one of the best hurlers in the league.

A three-year starter for Wood after transferring to the school prior to her sophomore season, Browne was a key part of the program’s rise up the PCL ranks.

“Marisa is a strikeout pitchers and coming back from her injury has been tough,” Ecker said. “She had the speed, maybe not the movement that she wanted but she held her own.”

Ecker credited Bell’s work, especially the freshman righty’s rise ball for keeping her team off-balance. Wood started to have better at-bats later in the game, but Bell just kept finding ways to work things back to her liking and record an out.

Wood graduates eight seniors, although not all of them were starters. Senior Jackie Fagan, who split time behind the plate as catcher, made one of the highlight plays for Wood in the third inning when she stretched out to catch a throw and took a hit at home plate for a key forceout.

Each senior’s role was different for Wood and Ecker noted it can be tough on seniors when they aren’t getting playing time but cited her team’s close-knit nature this year.

“They stick together, they back each other up and they’re all there for each other,” Ecker said. “It’s going to be a different kind of year next year without them.”

The Vikings should return some key players like Lancellotti, second baseman Jules Donchez, third baseman Kylee Guerrera and freshman outfielder Deana Campbell, who also stepped up and pitched while Browne was injured.

“We just need to stick together as a team and stay close together,” Lancellotti said. “We saw this season that was the most important thing.”

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