Patience at the plate keys North Penn’s District 1-AAAA 2nd round win over West Chester Rustin

TOWAMENCIN — With two on and one out in the top of the sixth, and with North Penn holding onto a 5-3 lead, West Chester Rustin’s Rachel Fricker smacked a line drive to the left side of the infield.

“I knew the ball was coming to me and I knew I had to catch it,’ Maidens shortstop Katie Beer said. “We’re always solid defensively. If somebody makes an error, we pick each other up and get the next play.’

There would be no errors for North Penn, just a whole lot of defense and patience at the plate. Beer made a sliding catch at short and threw to third baseman Bri Battavio to double up the runner, as the Maidens got out of the sixth-inning jam on their way to a 5-3 win over the Golden Knights in the second round of the District 1-AAAA playoffs.

North Penn advances to Friday’s district quarters and a home matchup with defending district champion Avon Grove, in a rematch of last year’s district final.

The third-seeded Maidens drew 12 walks in Wednesday’s victory — along with a hit batter in the sixth.

After Brittany Fitcher’s infield single plated two for Rustin in the top of the first, North Penn tied the game in the bottom half, as the Maidens drew four consecutive walks, including bases-loaded walks by Battavio and Courtney Neal, to even the contest at two apiece.

Golden Knights right-hander Caela Abadie was throwing hard, striking out five and allowing just one hit, but the Maidens focused on just getting runners on.

“We knew going in that she’s a good pitcher,’ North Penn coach Rick Torresani said, “and we were gonna be patient.’

North Penn pushed ahead in the fourth. Neal drew a walk to start the inning, followed by a bunt single down the first-base line by Anna Gill. A sac bunt by Beer moved the runners over, and after leadoff Jackie Bilotti drew a walk to load the bases, Becky Christoffers also drew a walk to put the Maidens in front, 3-2.

North Penn added two more runs in the inning off a fielder’s choice and a wild pitch, extending the margin to 5-2.

“The first game is always the toughest,’ said Torresani, whose team will be gunning for its fourth straight trip to states Friday. “We had a bye, so this was our first game and it’s always the toughest. You have the jitters, and even my stomach (had them) at the beginning of the game. So now we got that out and we (move onto) Friday.’

Rustin loaded the bases in the sixth, but Bilotti got Abadie to hit into a fielder’s choice — and although a run scored to slim the margin to 5-3 — that first out wound up being crucial for NP.

Abadie, a junior, had hit 31 career home runs coming into the contest, tied for the state record.

“Jackie threw a beautiful pitch, jammed her, and we were able to get an out,’ Torresani said.

And then Beer came through with the clutch double play, and Bilotti retired Rustin in order in the seventh to send NP to the quarterfinals.

Rustin, a team on the rise, racked up 14 wins this season and hoisted its first Ches-Mont American Division title before falling in a close one, on a blustery day at NP.

“We were a hit away,’ Rustin coach Bruce Dudley said. “When we loaded the bases with nobody out (in the sixth), I said ‘ here we go.’ If that line drive to shortstop (by Fricker) was three feet either way, we had the game tied.’

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