Spot-starter Kowalski leads Upper Merion over Norristown

WEST NORRITON — It was a rare start for Upper Merion’s Nicole Kowalski, who was in the circle for the Vikings softball team Thursday at Norristown while Olivia Sborlini, the team’s stalwart starting pitcher, manned third base.

And Kowalski made the most of the opportunity, scattering six hits while adding a home run on offense to help propel the Vikings past the Eagles, 10-0.

Kowalski got word Wednesday from Upper Merion head coach John Whitney that she’d be getting the nod. And after being held in check by Eagles starter Stephanie Orman through the early innings, the Vikings offense erupted, scoring eight times between the third and fifth innings, to put the contest out of reach.

“We’re hitting the ball and playing good defense right now,’ Kowalski said. “I got a little tired at the end, but we all fought all the way through.

“I got the start because Liv pitched the last couple days and we have a lot of games coming up.’

The Vikings got an unearned run in the first inning, then added a pair in the third via Micaela Ghanayem’s two-run double.

Norristown, meanwhile, had just one hit through the first three innings as Kowalski kept the Eagles off balance by working all edges of the plate.

Upper Merion broke the game open with a four-run fourth that featured six Vikings hits and a pair of Eagles errors.

“Our kids are trying their best,’ said Eagles head coach Jim McCarthy. “Our numbers are down because of some injuries and attrition. We have two players who would normally be at J.V. who are in the outfield and starting for us.’

Down seven in the home fourth, Norristown loaded the bases with one out on singles by Maria Sinni, Dallas Bowe and Maggie Fineran. But Kowalski made a juggling catch on Jessica Ellick’s line drive back to the box and Eliza Escobeilo lined out to second to end the frame.

Sborlini’s two-run double in the fifth and Kowalski’s homer in the seventh closed the scoring.

“Our team’s been playing well lately, against small teams and big teams,’ Kowalski said. “We’re all great friends and we feel we can go far in playoffs this year.’

As for Norristown, McCarthy said the team will do its best over the final weeks of the season.

“We’re just looking for small victories to build on,’ the Eagles coach said. “We have no J.V. team and right now we only have nine players, although a couple of our injured players will be coming back soon.

“We have some good players, and we’re just trying to build around them.’

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