Abbot just perfect to oust Marple Newtown

TREDYFFRIN — The way to remember All-Delco Rylee Power, whose Marple Newtown High softball career ended Friday, is the way she fought to the last pitch.

Power was all that stood between Villa Maria pitcher Maddie Abbot, who had retired 20 straight batters with her rising fastball, and a perfect game in their District One Class AAA quarterfinal.

Instead of becoming Abbot’s 11th strikeout victim, the senior shortstop worked the pitcher hard before grounding out to third. The throw just beat Power to the bag.

The out touched off a noisy celebration by the third-seeded Hurricanes, who celebrated a 3-0 victory over the Tigers to advance to the semifinals where they oppose second-seeded Upper Merion, a 3-2 winner over Pottsgrove.

“Her rise ball was pretty good today,’ Power said. “It got us on a lot of her strikeouts and stuff. She was tough. Ending like this wasn’t what we wanted obviously. But I mean, I thought we did pretty well this season. We had a better year than we had expected.’

It was a rebuilding season for the 11th-seeded Tigers (11-11), who lost the majority of the starting lineup to graduation.

The Hurricanes (15-6), on the other hand, showed their resiliency as they bounced back from three straight losses to end the regular season.

“To have her first no-hitter and perfect game in a district game, I mean this is the highest caliber play you’re going to see,’ Hurricanes coach Claire Emplit said. “And she came hard today. So I am very proud of her.’

Abbot was particularly intimidating in innings three through five. That’s when she made the heart of the Tigers’ batting order look as overwhelmed as the bottom of the order, courtesy of her fastball.

Abbot struck out seven of the nine Tigers she faced in that imposing run, including Power. The talk Tigers coach Mike Snow had given the squad about laying off the riser was laid to waste by the fury of the pitch that’s been clocked at 62 mph.

“We knew she was going to throw like that,’ Snow said. “We faced a very similar pitcher in Leigh Ann Jenkins of Ridley. We had a game plan. We executed against Ridley. We didn’t execute against her today. We helped her out swinging at the rise ball. We hit a couple of balls hard when we weren’t but they played good defense. You’ve got to tip your hat to them.’

The Hurricanes grabbed a 1-0 lead in a strange second inning that began with a hit by Sarahroe Jonik and a walk for designated hitter Emily Cosgrove, the first of three issued by Tigers starter Ceire Devlin-Mohan.

After Jonik scored on a single by Hannah Chambers, Cosgrove was gunned down at the plate — and ejected from the game — for using her arms to push catcher Megan MacNeal. Cosgrove has to sit out the next game, as well, according to PIAA rules.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened,’ Emplit said. “She saw the catcher in front of the plate and she wanted to get to the plate. She was being aggressive and I think it was just the way she went to the plate.’

After Abbot struck out the side in the third inning, Bri Wright, who singled, tallied on a throwing error to give the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead.

Abbot’s bunt in the fourth inning plated Lisa Becker, who, taking over for Cosgrove, laid down a bunt to start the inning.

“Defensively we helped them out with a couple of errors,’ Snow said. “It was kind of a 1-0 game with a bunch of balls kicked around making it 3-0. I told the girls it was a winnable game. We just didn’t come out on the right side of it.’

Abbot seemed to get stronger as the game wore on until she learned she was flirting with a perfect game.

Soon thereafter she began circling the bench while her team was at bat, all the time seeming to avoid eye contact.

“I realized it in the fifth inning,’ Abbot said. “I was like, wow, we’ve had three up, three down this whole time. And then I got nervous. Once I realized it I definitely took a lot more time. I was trying to get really focused and confident in myself. I just wanted to pitch my game. (M.C. Butler is) a great catcher. She calls a great game. So I just trust her and what she calls.’

When it was over, Abbot was gracious, conceding it meant a lot because the Tigers can put runs on the board.

“I just thought I’ll do my thing,’ Abbot said. “I figured they would get hits. But it was just really exciting and then all of the sudden I realized like, I can get a perfect game.

“This is awesome. Now we’re in the semifinals. That’s really exciting.’

On her way off the field, Power, a four-year starter in tennis, basketball and softball, put the game and her Tigers experience in perspective.

“They’re good,’ Power said of Villa Maria. “I don’t think they had any errors. We put the ball in play a couple times. They just made the plays. My teammates, they’ve been great over the past four years. I’m going to miss that the most.’

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