Favored Pennsbury bounced from districts by Great Valley

FAIRLESS HILLS — In journalism, “dog bites man’ is not considered news; only “man bites dog’ is considered newsworthy.

On Monday, May 18, the PIAA District One Softball Tournament produced one whopper of a “man bites dog’ story when 13th-seeded Pennsbury was sent packing in the first round after suffering a 6-1 defeat at the hands of the 20th seed, Great Valley.

Long time Pennsbury coach Frank McSherrry couldn’t remember the last time his squad had made as early an exit from the tournament, although he conceded that it had happened before, and the specter of the normally dominant Falcons packing it up this early had a surreal quality.

To be fair, as unusual as it was, the loss was not completely unexpected as Pennsbury has struggled through a trying season, losing several players along the way and finally finishing at 11-10.

“We battled,’ a philosophical McSherry said after the loss. “Hopefully, we’re going to learn from this year. The kids saw how tough and how important every game (in our league) is. We talked to them about it but you have to see it.’

The Falcons were up against it from the beginning as the team’s normal starting pitcher, Casey Boltersdorf, was sidelined with an injury. That put the ball in the hand of freshman Alyssa Hileman, who, in spite of the pressure, kept the Great Valley hitters at bay through five innings.

Hileman, who had been spotted a 1-0 lead in the third when Alyssa Civil singled, stole second and scored on a single by Mia Pitt, worked her way through the order twice, giving up only a single run on a bases empty home run by Great Valley clean up hitter Emilee Kirk in the fourth.

But in the sixth inning, it became clear that Kirk had Hileman’s number. That’s when she blasted a two-run homer over the right centerfield fence to break up the tie and give Grand Valley a 3-1 lead.

“She’s an amazing kid,’ Great Valley head coach Jeff Cellucci said of his slugger, who was also walked intentionally in the seventh. “You can’t throw anything even remotely close to a strike without her hitting it hard. She’s a big, strong kid and she works at it. She was the one who ignited us.’

The heart of the Great Valley batting order was able to get a fourth look at Hileman in the seventh and the hitters took full advantage, batting around the order and adding three more runs on four hits to put the game away.

“I think we didn’t hit as many spots,’ McSherry said of the late inning woes. “For four or five innings (Hileman) pitched a nice game. Then they hit a couple of knocks and maybe we lost some concentration. Plus, hitting is contagious.’

Great Valley will now play fourth seeded Springfield-Delco in the round of 16 but Cellucci is not looking ahead to that game just yet. Instead, he took a moment to enjoy a rare first round victory over such an established program.

“You’ve got an eight year state championship team over there,’ he said, pointing to the Pennsbury dugout. “And Frank has been one of the great coaches here for 40 years. He knocked me out in the quarters 3-2 back when I was at Downingtown West, so I get it. We’re just thrilled.’

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