PROSPECT PARK >> Bridget Bailey had a secret skill she wanted to unveil prior to the high school softball season.
The Interboro senior owned a reputation for being one of the most dominant pitchers in the county. As a junior, she earned All-Delco honors.
During the offseason, while practicing with her travel team the Delco Diamonds, she overhauled a facet of her game that had been ignored for years.
Bailey did not have the opportunity to swing the bat very often. But she convinced Interboro coach Chuck Pedrick that she had improved by leaps and bounds, spending hours becoming a good-hitting pitcher.
“Tom Phillips, my coach for (the) Diamonds, he worked on my hitting from last August to January. He completely changed my hitting,” Bailey said. “I got so much better. I owe my entire season of hitting to him.”
Weeks before Interboro would embark on another Del Val League championship campaign, Bailey let her coaches in on the secret.
“I went to them and said, ‘You’re going to let me hit this year. It’s going to happen,’” Bailey said. “We played a scrimmage and I went 3-for-3, so that’s when they thought we’d give it a shot. I was so nervous coming up to the plate, but I didn’t want to be that pitcher who is just known for being a pitcher. I wanted people to be, like, ‘Oh she can hit, too.’”
Bailey’s practice paid off in a big way for the Bucs. Not only did she improve from the pitcher’s circle, she was the most feared hitter in the Interboro lineup. It’s why she is the 2018 Daily Times Player of the Year.
Joining Bailey on the All-Delco team, which is selected after consultation with area coaches, are Bonner & Prendergast’s Meghan Sullivan and Kaitlyn Martin, Penncrest’s Maya Hartman and Julia Eckels, Garnet Valley’s Lindsey Hunt and Diane Torregrossa, Chichester’s Ava Franz, Ridley’s Ashley Shanks, Haverford’s Ali Murphy, Notre Dame’s Sophia Marlino, and Upper Darby’s Lexie Witmer.
Bailey, Hunt, Murphy and Witmer are two-time All-Delco selections. Bailey is the first Player of the Year from Interboro since Danielle Fagan in 2005.
With Bailey set to unleash her offensive weaponry on the Del Val League, the Bucs were in good shape. Not only did they have a dominating pitcher, capable of throwing a perfect game every time out, they now had a player who worked to become something she never was before — a lethal, power-hitting machine. However, Bailey would have her reservations about the 2018 season. After such a memorable 2017 campaign, which included a Del Val title, a district final appearance, and a win in the state tournament, the Bucs had lost key players, including All-Delco catcher Amber Seamen, who was the team’s star hitter the prior three seasons.
“I wasn’t exactly sure how it would turn out. We had lost three really decent seniors and we had a really good team last year. We had a good combination and we really played well together,” Bailey said. “So this year, after losing three seniors, we had to really re-work our team. I didn’t think we would be a whole lot better than last year, but I didn’t think we would do any worse, either. It ended up being right in the center, we did the exact same thing as last year. I didn’t think it would end up like that.
“It was all about me and rest of the team. We had seven seniors on the team. Halfway through the year we hit a bit of a rough patch and we lost a few games in a row. All of the seniors came together and said, ‘OK, we need to get this together.’ We talked to everyone and figured out what we needed to do to get better. It was a real team thing.”
Bailey developed a rapport with new starting catcher Haley Barrett, who emerged as a worthy successor to Seamen behind the dish.
“She was one of our top leaders. At the beginning of the year, a lot of pressure was put on her by a lot of people because of Amber leaving. She had big shoes to fill,” Bailey said. “She was a catcher for me probably since the sixth or seventh grade. I’ve played with her and I’ve known her for most of my entire life. Seeing her grow as a player who was cheering everyone on from the bench last year to being a leader, she had the confidence to do it this year and do the job that Amber did last year.”
Once the Bucs were off and running, Bailey was hard to stop. She posted a 1.12 ERA and racked up a mind-boggling 281 strikeouts in 131 1/3 innings. Opponents hit .164 against her. At the plate, she hit .452 with nine doubles, two triples, a home run and 23 RBIs.
In the postseason, Bailey elevated her game to new heights. She struck out 21 in a no-hitter against Upper Moreland in the District 1 Class 5A quarterfinals. In the semifinals, the Bucs avenged last year’s district championship loss to Henderson, and Bailey delivered the walk-off hit in the eighth inning.
“We wanted that win,” Bailey said. “Losing to them last year in the district championship, finally getting that revenge of winning and going to the title game again, two years in a row, is the one thing I’m going to remember.”
Bishop Shanahan proved to big a hurdle. For the second straight season, the Bucs lost by one run in the district final. In states, Bailey threw a 19-strikeout gem to defeat String Theory Charter. The Bucs fell to Thomas Jefferson of District 7 in the state quarterfinals, 4-1.
Bailey improved not only as a hitter, but progressed every year from the circle, too. She didn’t get her big break at Interboro until junior year, and was dominant her final two seasons in high school. She credits her personal pitching coach, former Fordham All-American Jennifer Mineau, who is an assistant coach at St. Joseph’s, for turning her into the pitcher she is today. Bailey will spend the next four years pitching at Kutztown.
“I did an overnight stay and the girls on the team were so close, they talked so highly of the coaches. I knew this is where I need to be,” Bailey said.
And Interboro says goodbye to Bailey, an excellent softball player and a model teammate.
“Playing for Pedrick was great. He is like that uncle in your family who’s always kind of there. He means a lot,” Bailey said. “I’ll miss the players, the coaches, the school. It was a fun four years.”