EXTON >> As the Upper Perkiomen softball team gathered at home plate with the District 1-4A Championship trophy at Immaculata University Wednesday, one thing was certain: this one was earned.
Just a couple weeks after the Pioneer Athletic Conference playoffs were cancelled and the Tribe were unceremoniously declared Frontier Division champions, Upper Perk was in search of something more tangible, something they could wrap their fingers around and hoist high above their heads.
Behind senior right-hander Taylor Lindsay’s complete-game shutout in the circle, Upper Perkiomen did just that — grabbing a grueling 1-0 win over Pope John Paul II for their second straight district title.
“We didn’t want no title given to us, we wanted to earn it,” said head coach Dean Sullivan. “We had a team here that could have potentially won the PAC playoffs, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Not this season.”
The PAC playoffs were washed out earlier this month after a week of bad weather forced the league to cancel this year’s installment. Of course, that didn’t sit well with Upper Perk (17-4 overall), the No. 2 seed who was looking to avenge last year’s runner-up finish.
“We definitely felt like we belonged in the championship game,” said Lindsay of the PAC playoffs. “But this win, winning districts again, it’s definitely a good way for us to get that feeling. We’re champs, no one can take that away from us.”
Lindsay pitched all seven innings for Upper Perk, scattering nine hits with no walks and five strikeouts. She didn’t allow a baserunner to reach third base all game on the way to her eighth shutout of the season.
“For me, it was about working the corners a lot,” said Lindsay. “I try not to let the one hit here and there worry me too much. Especially when there are two outs — I know that my fielders behind me will get the out.”
Pope John Paul II (11-9) starter Ashley Remington was equally dominant to her counterpart. She held Upper Perk, a power-hitting team that had averaged more than eight runs per game this spring, to a season low in hits (two) and runs scored in her complete-game effort. The senior right-hander struck out eight and walked just one.
“Ashley was huge. I couldn’t have asked for much more from her,” said PJP head coach Amanda Knight. “We talked with her yesterday and we told her, ‘You got us to this spot, you just need to go out with the confidence that you’re the best.’
“She did. She had all the confidence in her team and in herself.”
Upper Perk only got to Remington in the bottom of the first inning.
Batting out the two-hole, sophomore catcher Morgan Lindsay worked a one-out walk, then moved over to third base on a fielding error at second base a batter later. Then shortstop Karlee Fretz connected on an RBI single to left to give the Tribe an early 1-0 lead. Two batters later, Kerry McCausland (courtesy runner for Morgan Lindsay) was caught trying for home on a wild pitch to end the threat.
From there, Remington settled in and mowed down the Upper Perk lineup, only allowing one hit the rest of the way.
“We’ve seen her a few times,” said Sullivan, “but I think the speed really caught us off-guard. She had more zip on her fastball than we were expecting. She was hitting spots and overpowering our batters. That’s hard to do, but she did it.”
PJP second baseman Gabby Simms finished 3-for-4 with a double while catcher Grace Harvey and right fielder Dani Dare each had two hits.
With the win, Upper Perk advances to the PIAA-4A playoffs for the second straight season and just the second time in program history. The Tribe will face the District 2 runner-up next Monday in a matchup that will be decided Friday night at Wilkes University when defending champ Tunkhannock and Nanticoke meet up at 4:30 p.m.
Pope John Paul II’s season comes to a close with the Golden Panthers making their deepest run into the district playoffs in program history. Following the loss, Knight took a step back and noted what her seniors have meant to her program.
“This senior class is the first class that I started with at PJP,” she said. “Hence the tears. It’s sad to see such a great group of girls not make it any further. They really built this program up; it’s all thanks to the senior class.”
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