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Great Valley’s fifth inning propels Patriots past Phantoms

EAST WHITELAND >> Pitching and defense normally take charge during the softball postseason playoffs.

That definitely proved to be the case again Wednesday during the first round of the District 1 Class 5A playoffs between Great Valley and Phoenixville.

Deadlocked entering the bottom of the fifth, it was the Patriots’ two-run inning that propelled them to a 4-2 victory over the Phantoms.

Great Valley’s Morgan Orlowski pitched a seven-inning, three-hitter with six strikeouts and two walks as the eighth-seeded Patriots advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal round against top-seeded Penncrest, an 8-1 winner over Strath Haven.

One of the hits allowed by Orlowski was a solo home run off the bat of Phoenixville senior shortstop Aubrey Valenteen with two outs in the top of the first inning.

Phoenixville senior Jess Eldridge also pitched a strong game in her scholastic finale. Eldridge finished gave up two earned runs with two strikeouts and one walk in six innings of work. Also rounding out her high school career was Phantom senior catcher Emily Buckwalter, who will continue to play softball while studying at Kenyon College in Ohio.

Phoenixville, the No. 9 seed, saw its season come to a close at 12-9 overall and 9-7 in the PAC under first-year head coach Grace Henderson.

“It’s been four years since we have been to districts,” said Henderson. “I am very proud of my seniors (eight). Their heads should be held high.”

Great Valley has also enjoyed another fine season under head coach Jeff Cellucci, whose career spans a combined 30 years at four different high schools – Archbishop Prendergast (11 years), Downingtown West (12), Twin Valley (three) and Great Valley (four).

The Patriots captured the Ches-Mont divisional title outright last year before finishing in a three-way tie for the crown this season with Sun Valley and Kennett. All three ball clubs won their first-round district playoff games Wednesday with No. 7 Sun Valley edging Upper Moreland, 3-2, and No. 11 Kennett stopping No. 6 West Chester East.

“It was an even game,” said Cellucci. “It was like a mirror. We both made some mistakes, and we both have decent pitching.”

Orlowski wound up breaking the tie herself with two down and two runners aboard in the sixth. The cleanup batter’s fly ball to right field hit the top of the glove of hard-charging Danielle Marosek, and then fell to the ground for a two-run single. Alex Rubin and Erin Bevec, who each singled, scored on the hit to give Great Valley the lead that held up during the last two innings of play.

Henderson praised her veteran battery mates, Eldridge and Buckwalter, for one last fine outing in the circle and behind the plate. She continued to rave about her solid group.

“Aubrey was fantastic with the way she ended her senior year with a home run,” said Henderson. “With the way we ended up, I am very proud of them. We played as a team. Watching them, you could see them cheering and supporting one another, which was fantastic. It was a great year. We came out with a winning record and made districts. I don’t know what more I could have asked from them.”

“We could have pulled it out, I think,” said Valenteen. “But we had a few errors that messed us up. Our hitting was pretty solid all the way.

“Coach Grace came in this year and took us to districts for the first time since 2013 in her first season. For her, that is quite an accomplishment.”

NOTES >> Phoenixville’s senior players include Jessica Anthony, Buckwalter, Eldridge, Tessa Lochetto, Marosek, Miranda McMahon, Ainsley McQuiston and Valenteen …  Great Valley got some solid defensive plays from right fielder Rachael Bullock, left fielder Corine McCarthy and third baseman Erin Bevel. … Phoenixville answered with some strong glove work by Valenteen at shortstop, Gina Brown at second base and Susan Duncan at third base.

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