Pottsgrove’s late-season grit earns Falcons first PAC-10 playoff berth

RED HILL — There was a collective sense of relief as Pottsgrove exited the bus upon their arrival at Upper Perkiomen.

Minutes had gone by after the team had been bestowed the news that Methacton, vying for the fourth spot in the PAC-10 Final Four, had lost in extra innings to Spring-Ford.

The Falcons, winners of three straight, had done it. For the first time in school history, their team was making a trip to the PAC-10 Final Four in search of their first PAC-10 championship since 1995.

For an encore, Gabi Ermish tossed another complete game gem while Cori Dickinson continued her torrid hitting streak, knocking in two runs as the Falcons topped Upper Perkiomen 4-2 Wednesday night in both team’s regular season finale.

Ermish struck out eight while allowing two earned on five hits while Kira Livezey picked up an RBI in the win. Upper Perkiomen’s Taylor Lindsay led her team with two hits and an RBI while three other players registered hits for the Tribe.

The tale of the tape was similar to Pottsgrove’s previous wins. Timely hitting and solid pitching had staked the Falcons to a 4-1 lead after five before Ermish turned on the heat in the seventh, racking up her seventh and eighth strikeout in the final frame to seal the win.

“My team knew we made the playoffs before the game started,’ Pottsgrove head coach Julie Davis said. “Our mentality didn’t change. We came here with the idea that we were going to earn it and not let any team give it to us. We wanted this win tonight.’

The Falcons earned every bit of it.

Earned every bit of Wednesday night’s win.

Earned every bit of their playoff berth that validates a program that had won more than 10 conference games only twice (2011 & 2014) in the last 17 years.

“Our mental approach has improved throughout the season and that’s what has lifted us up,’ Davis said. “Yes, we’re getting timely hits and some great pitching but the mental side of it is what’s doing it. My kids are coming in hungry and ready to play and added to that, we’re getting the leadership that we needed.’

“I’m at a loss for words,’ senior Sydney Schollenberger said. “My freshman year everyone played as individuals, but this year, I don’t know what happened from last year to this year, everyone just plays together. Everyone’s included in everything and the chemistry we have we haven’t had in the past.’

It’s hard to pinpoint just how chemistry forms, whether it stems from team bonding experiments or grueling practice sessions. However, whatever chemistry the Falcons had built was in full display the past week and a half.

A program of 14 strong that had failed to field a jayvee team because of a low turnout, was seemingly down and out last Friday as it entered a critical doubleheader with Boyertown (then 7-7 and tied for fifth in the PAC-10 standings).

One loss and the season turned dire. Two losses and the season itself was lost.

It was no problem for a group that had gotten the knack of putting the pieces together at the right time.

Ermish and Shauna Maggio played hero in Game 1 as Ermish’s gem allowed Maggio to plate the game-winning run in extras before Jenna Trythall delivered the start of her young career in Game 2 as the Falcons’ season righted course with a one-sided win for the season sweep.

A gritty win over Owen J. Roberts, coupled with some help from the right hand of Perkiomen Valley’s Emily Oltman, who had tossed a one-hit shutout Monday to lift PV over Methacton Monday, had the Falcons in a reverse script from the week before.

Dire turned to promise. Promise turned to validation after learning Methacton fell in a do-or-die clash with Spring-Ford with its playoff life in the balance.

But it took one more win, one more postgame huddle in the outfield before it sunk in.

“Over the past few years we’ve definitely picked up the intensity in our practices and we’ve definitely come together more,’ Ermish said. ‘The talent’s a lot better and we have a lot of freshmen stepping up when we need them to. It’s been working out,’

“Making it to the PAC-10 finals my freshman year feels good,’ Livezey said. “There’s definitely a difference between playing in middle school and high school with high school being more intense. We’re getting rewarded for all the hard work we put in.’

The Falcons are headed to the PAC-10 playoffs.

Now it’s just a matter of how far they’ll go.

NOTES — Pottsgrove finished 10-8 in the conference in 2014 and 11-7 in 2011 … The Falcons finished second in the PAC-10 in 1997 with an 11-3 record.

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