McGrath powers Radnor past Penncrest

RADNOR — The potential had always been there for Megan McGrath to hit for average and power, while playing plus defense in the outfield. Radnor first-year head coach John Schaefer, an assistant when McGrath was a freshman and sophomore, always believed in McGrath and expected big things of her this season.

“She is our power hitter,’ Schaefer said of McGrath, a junior right fielder. “We don’t have a lot of girls who can drive the ball, but with Meg, the ball jumps off her bat and she gives everyone confidence. When you’re getting ready to go up to the plate and you see someone who can hammer the ball like that, it gives the rest of the lineup a lot of confidence.’

That’s sort of how it happened Wednesday. McGrath swung a hot bat in the middle of the Radnor lineup, going 3-for-3 with a triple, sacrifice fly and two RBIs as the fifth-seeded Raiders downed No. 12 Penncrest, 9-3, in a District One Class AAA tournament first-round game.

Radnor (12-9) takes on No. 4 Nazareth Academy in the quarterfinals Friday. Penncrest’s season ends at 9-11.

McGrath’s sweet swinging is a huge reason why the Raiders are in the district tourney in the first place.

“I was really excited for this game,’ she said. “We’ve had such an interesting season, starting off kind of slow. We come in before every game, ready to play and ready to do whatever it takes. That’s what we were thinking going into this game. We were really pumped and were were able to get it done.’

McGrath, batting third in Schaefer’s lineup, wasted no time making an impact against Penncrest freshman pitcher Maya Hartman. In the first inning, McGrath singled, stole second base and scored on catcher Holly Pachella’s two-RBI base knock. In the second inning, McGrath hit a bullet to the outfield for a sacrifice fly. McGrath sent another shot to the left-center gap in the third inning for a standup RBI triple. In the sixth, she singled and swiped her second base of the day.

“I try to relax and look for the right pitch. I always see the situation before me,’ McGrath said. “I know if there’s a runner on first, I try to go with the pitch and help the team whenever I can.’

To cap off a spectacular afternoon, McGrath made a sliding catch to rob Carly Shenold of potential extra bases in the seventh inning.

“For travel, she’s played catcher, she’s played some third base and she’s played outfield. She’s played with us (on varsity) since she was a freshman, but we couldn’t find a great spot for her early on,’ Schaefer said. “We tried her at third base, but she’s much more comfortable in the outfield. Today, she made a lot of really nice plays for us.’

Radnor also received a solid pitching performance by Brooke Nicander, who allowed two earned runs on five hits and struck out four. After a shaky first inning, when the Lions scored two runs and capitalized on a Radnor error, Nicander settled in. She avoided trouble after the third, when Kailey Martin stroked an RBI single for Penncrest’s third and final run. If ever there was a drop-the-mic moment on a softball field, that was it.

“Our bats have always been really good and strong, so I knew that my team would support me even though I (gave up) those two runs in the first inning,’ Nicander said. “We came back and tied it right away.’

Radnor plated three runs in the second and four more in the third to take a 9-3 advantage. That lead would hold the rest of the way.

“We called lots of fastballs and the occasional screwball,’ said Pachella, who had a two-run hit out of the cleanup spot and threw out a runner trying to steal second base. “We wanted to mix it up. They were swinging at a lot of high pitches…’

Which was a good thing for Nicander.

“Kind of helped me out a little bit,’ she said.

Sarah Rosenblum worked three walks and scored two runs, and Sydney Aljian had a pair of singles for Radnor. Victoria Reed scored two runs and Olivia Rigby was 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored for Penncrest.

In other District One Class AAA first-round action:

Marple Newtown 3, Merion Mercy 0: The 11th-seeded Tigers (11-10) upset the No. 5 Golden Bears as pitcher Ciere Devlin-Mohan twirled a six-hit shutout. She was helped immensely by her defense at key points.

Nicole Atkins and All-Delco Rylee Power led the hit attack for Marple Newtown. Atkins was 2-for-3 with a two-run single in the first inning, and Power slammed a solo homer in the sixth.

The Tigers hit the road again to take on No. 3 Villa Maria in the quarterfinal round Friday.

In the District One Class AAAA tournament:

Great Valley 11, Springfield 1: The No. 4 Cougars (19-1), who had won 23 consecutive games going back to last year’s memorable PIAA Class AAA title run, were stunned by the 11th-seeded Patriots in a second-round game. Kasey Bryan paced the visitors with three hits and four RBIs.

Springfield was limited to five hits and committed three errors.

Delco’s District One Class AAAA qualifiers (Springfield, Interboro, Ridley) went 0-3 and were outscored, 20-6, in this year’s tournament.

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