Upper Merion grabs ‘ sloppy’ win over Wissahickon

LOWER GWYNEDD — Upper Merion’s softball team was not exactly at its best Tuesday.

The Vikings, the soon-to-be crowned champions of the Suburban One League’s American Conference, featured a sluggish offense and a defense that committed five errors.

It’s a good thing Abby Volpe and Nicole Kowalski were suited up.

Volpe went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a grand slam and five RBIs and Kowalski allowed five hits and just one unearned run as Upper Merion prevailed, 6-2, to take another step toward securing a top-four seeding in the upcoming District One Class AAA playoffs.

“We got through the game,’ said Vikings head coach John Whitney, “but we were sloppy, too many errors.

“We can’t play defense like that, that’s unacceptable. But ‘Ski (Kowalski) pitched out of the trouble. She bailed us out.’

So did Volpe, who, after the Trojans took the lead in the home first on Brittany Gelman’s RBI double, tied it in the third with an RBI double of her own, then scored on Micaela Ghanayem’s two-base hit.

“It felt good to come through like that,’ said Volpe, still moving gingerly after taking part in and finishing the Broad Street run with her mom this past Sunday. “The team needed it.

“(Kowalski) thanked me, but she did a great job pitching.’

After her rocky start, Kowalski retired nine Trojans hitters in a row before Wissahickon got two runners aboard via an error and a single in the fourth.

By then the Vikings had a 6-1 lead thanks to Volpe, who slammed a two-out grand slam over the left-field fence in the top of the fourth.

“The pitches were coming in a little slower, which gave me time to hit the ball where it was pitched,’ Volpe said. “It’s been a while since I’ve done something like that.’

But while the Vikings lead seemed safe, the Trojans didn’t stop threatening – and they got some help from the Vikings defense.

Kowalski pitched around a leadoff double by Michela Coleman in the fifth.

A single, two Vikings errors and pitcher Haley Segal’s ground out plated a second Trojans run in the sixth, but Kowalski got a two-out strikeout to quell a further threat.

“Our pitcher (Segal) has been terrific lately,’ said Trojans head coach Mike Borkowski. “The (grand slam) was a pitch below the knees and (Volpe) just went down and got it. She’s a good hitter.

“It’s just a shame we couldn’t get a few more runs.’

With the conference virtually locked up, the Vikings now turn their attention to a key non-league game this weekend against Marple Newtown, a potential foe in the upcoming playoffs.

“Right now we’re probably looking at a three seed and Marple is probably sitting at six,’ Whitney said, “so we need to win that game.

“We want to get a top four seed so we can get a first-round bye.’

Wissahickon, while not heading toward the postseason, seems to be heading in the right direction after a winless 2014.

“We’ve been saying to the kids that the mental part of the game is such a big thing,’ Borkowski said, “and some of the kids are starting to understand that.

“Haley’s been pitching so well, Destiny (Paige) has been a beast since we moved her to third base and (Julianne Griffin) has been playing great.

“We’re just trying to instill confidence in the kids.’

NOTES: Upper Merion shortstop Allie Moffett was forced to leave the game after suffering an injury diving back into the first-base bag in the fifth inning. “It looks like a jammed finger,’ Whitney said, “which is tough because as our shortstop she’s one of the most important players on the team. We’ll have to move some kids around over the next couple of games and give Allie some time to get better.’

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