Cougars keep playoff hopes alive

UWCHLAN — The District 1 playoffs may not technically begin until next week but Downingtown East received the perfect dress rehearsal on Monday afternoon. With the latest power rankings slotting the Cougars as the final playoff team, winning their last game essentially was a must win.

On their senior day, Downingtown rewarded their fourth year players, and home fans with a 6-4 victory over Unionville.

“We’re right on the bubble. This was one was one we had to have,’ coach Brian Stackhouse said. “It’s also fantastic to have our seniors win their final home game.’

They pounced on the Indians (10-9, 11-9) early. In the bottom of the second inning they established a 2-0 lead. It started with a Bridget Nordberg single. The next batter, Amanda Violante rocketed a ball over the head of center fielder Liv Hojnacki for a standup-RBI double. Violente moved over to third on a Claire Riley groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly from Faith Willenbrock.

The Indians answered in the top of the third. Anna Deshaies and Maddie Ross led off the inning with singles. With runners on first and second and one out, Mel Hammond dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position. The Cougars made the routine throw to turn away Hammond but the first baseman Riley tried to catch Deshaies going to third and airmailed the throw over third baseman Aryah Aungst’s head. Deshaies and Ross scored easily as the ball rolled into left field, tying the game at 2-2.

The Cougars (11-8, 11-8) responded in the bottom half of the inning. Leadoff-hitter Olivia Guidone kicked off the frame reaching safely on a bunt along the first-base line. Aungst advanced her to second on a sacrifice bunt. Pitcher, Paige Warfel followed with an infield single, setting up runners at the corners with one out.

Her catcher, Nordberg came up and tattooed a ball into left field that sent home Guidone. Violente was the next hitter up and hit a sky-high pop up right over top second base. Warfel was called out for base-runner interference when she ran back to second base. With Warfel getting in the way of shortstop Elise Rocconi, the ball dropped advancing Nordberg to second. The junior then stole third base with two outs.

With Riley at the plate, pitcher Austin Langerhans threw a wild pitch that Nordberg scored on to double the score up at 4-2.

The Indians chipped back into East’s lead in the top of the fifth. Deshaies, who finished 2-for-3, led off the inning with another single. Liv Hojnacki moved her to second on a sacrifice bunt. Ross scored Deshaies to close the deficit to 4-3. She finished 2-for-2 with two singles and two walks.

Any thoughts of a comeback were short-lived when the Cougars came to bat in their half of the inning. The heart of their order tossed on a few insurance runs. Their two-out rally started when Warfel drew a walk. She proceeded to score after Nordberg crushed a ball that hit the top of the 215-foot sign in left field. She cruised into third with a standup triple. The junior captain led the team with her 3-for-3 performance, and two RBIs.

“A lot of practice helped,’ Nordberg said. “We had a good practice on Friday and my teammates always have my back which also helped today.’

After scoring on another wild pitch, that put them in front 6-3.

Unionville scored once more in the sixth when Langerhans knocked in Mel Hammond.

With one more nonleague game against Episcopal Academy on Wednesday, Monday’s win probably secured their spot in the District 1 Class AAAA tournament.

“Today was really big for us,’ Warfel said. “We had to win to get into districts so now hopefully we can roll into the playoffs with some momentum and keep winning in the playoffs.’

Warfel only allowed two earned runs, and struck out four. The pitcher-catcher duo between her and Nordberg proved to be key all afternoon.

“We’ve played with each other for a long time,’ Nordberg said. “It’s nice to know your pitcher and know what she likes to throw. Paige was on point today so that made it easy for me.’

For Unionville it was their final game of the season. While they just missed the playoffs, there were plenty of positives to take from the season.

“My kids were great,’ coach Janelle Hadly said. “They came out every day and worked hard. We came out on the short end of a lot of games but there were lots of good things to take from this year.’

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