ROYERSFORD >> As Spring-Ford’s Megan Kern dug into the box two innings after launching a solo blast in the PIAA Class 6A quarterfinals against Liberty, exasperated groans filled the visitor bleachers.
All comments bore the same message: “Here comes No. 40 again.”
Kern’s innate ability to frustrate the opposition was well known throughout the district, making it all the more fun when “No. 40” took the PIAA-stage and announced her presence in fantastic fashion. Coaches knew her name beforehand. Fans … well they knew Spring-Ford had a power bat … but they knew nothing of the force in the lineup that No. 40 could be.
Kern shined on the PIAA stage, going 7-for-9 with five RBI, six runs scored and a home run in helping lead the Rams to the program’s best-ever finish — a PIAA state semifinal berth. For that, the St. Joseph’s commit earns Mercury All-Area Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive season.
“It feels great,” Kern said of her second straight award. “The team and I have all worked hard all year, and I couldn’t have done it all without them. There are a lot of competitive players in the league, so it’s an honor to be named as the player of the year.”
Kern’s award goes along with her Pioneer Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player Award, voted upon by the league’s coaches in early June. The senior shortstop continues a lineage of multi-year winners after Daniel Boone’s Bekah Slattery and Katie Erb kept the award in Birdsboro the previous five years (2011-2015). Slattery (now at Lack Haven) was a three-time winner.
Kern’s honor comes as no surprise, especially to longtime head coach Tim Hughes who called her “the total package.” Coming off a season where she hit .528 with seven doubles, the senior not only bettered her mark; she shattered it.
Kern finished the season with a league-best .632 batting average (55 hits in 87 at-bats), 51 runs scored and 39 RBI. To go along with her gaudy average were 14 doubles, seven triples and eight home runs — one a grand slam in a six-RBI game against Coatesville in the District 1 Class 6A playback round.
More impressive was her consistency. Kern had only three games where she didn’t register a hit, two against Perkiomen Valley and ace Abby Wild, the other against Boyertown (she walked twice). Eleven three-hit games and 10 games with multi-RBI also go into her resume for a scintillating senior season, where she had once again moved positions from catcher to shortstop.
She went on a tear in the district playoffs after the Rams had their quest denied for a second straight Pioneer Athletic Conference title thwarted by rival Perkiomen Valley. She started with a 3-for-3, four-run, two-RBI performance in a 7-0 win over Ridley that included a home run that has been rumored to still be traveling. Another three-hit performance helped advance the Rams to the district semifinals where Wild got the best of her, holding her hitless as the Vikings rallied in the seventh before putting the game away in extras to end the Rams’ district title run.
Kern got the last laugh, however, her play in the state playoffs allowing Spring-Ford to be the last league team standing come season’s end.
A special season in her eyes.
“We definitely had goals, some we didn’t meet, but we did meet our main one which was to go farther than any other Spring-Ford team in history,” Kern said. “That meant a lot to us.”
Kern will attend St. Joseph’s University in the fall, joining Methacton grad Amanda Kulp. She graduated from Spring-Ford in June as one of the most decorated and feared hitters in the league.
To Hughes: the best.
“The best player I have ever coached in softball is Megan, not only because of the way she makes plays or the way she hits, but the way she’ll practice,” Hughes said. “She was probably the hardest worker I’ve ever coached. She’s diving in practice when we’re playing a 2-14 team the next day, not because it’s fun, but because it’s the right thing to do. She went all-out, all the time.”
One thing is for sure. Opposing fans will breathe a collective sigh of relief when they don’t have to see No. 40 digging into the box.
College fans, however, hold your breath.