Chichester makes some history with its latest win

UPPER CHICHESTER — Maddie Thornton and Melissa Ferrara stood around home plate after Friday’s game and let the moment sink in for a few minutes.

For the last time, they had helped Chichester win a softball game on the Eagles’ home field. Chichester will continue on its quest for District One and state championship glory at neutral sites.

“It’s definitely weird after being here for four years and this was our last time here,’ said Thornton, the team’s third baseman who will play basketball at Ursinus College. “Basketball was one thing, because I knew I would still have softball. It’s just a weird feeling after today.’

The top-seeded Eagles made one final home memory when they disposed of No. 9 Upper Moreland, 9-1, to advance to the District One Class AAA semifinal round. Chi will play fifth-seeded Radnor Tuesday in a rematch of last year’s semifinal contest. It marks the third consecutive season that coach Jamie Blumenthal’s team has advanced this far in the district playoffs.

All-Delco pitcher Meghan Wimmer tied the career state record for most wins by pitcher at the Class AAA, locking down her 68th in dominating fashion. Following a surprisingly slow start, Wimmer found her groove by the end of the first inning and overmatched the visiting Bears (11-9), who committed four errors and mustered just five hits off the Ivy League-bound hurler. Cleanup hitter Jenn Freeman roped a triple to the gap in left-center field with two outs to give the Bears a 1-0 lead. Wimmer played it cool and eventually found her groove, retiring 16 of the next 17 batters she faced. She finished with 11 strikeouts.

“Coming into the game, my dad (assistant coach/scorekeeper Rich Wimmer) went and saw them play and he said they were somewhat of a weaker team,’ Wimmer said. “And when (Freeman’s RBI triple) happened it was like, ‘˜All right, I gotta pick it up.’ We were able to get the hits and score some runs.’

Chichester (20-1), which is enjoying the most successful season in school history, prepared for districts by backloading its regular-season schedule with tough nonleague opponents including Episcopal Academy, Cardinal O’Hara, Garnet Valley and Villa Maria, which is the No. 2 seed in the district tournament. Earlier in the week, the Eagles put forth a solid showing in a scrimmage with District One Class AAAA’s top seed, Neshaminy.

“Those games really got us ready for this,’ said Thornton, who went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. “It definitely helped pitching-wise. (Upper Moreland) didn’t have a real fast pitcher, but we’re so used to seeing all different speeds at this point.’

It was evident that the reigning two-time Del Val League champions were trying to find their timing against Upper Moreland pitcher Amber O’Connor, who allowed nine runs (six earned) on eight hits while walking three. The heavily right-handed hitting lineup of the Eagles got out in front with their swings against the soft-tossing hurler and peppered the other side of the diamond, hitting a total of seven balls to right field. But the Eagles showed that even when their swing isn’t quite right, they can rake with the best teams in the area.

Wimmer was plunked to lead off the bottom of the first, stole second base and came around to score on Alex Maher’s RBI single. The Eagles capitalized on two Upper Moreland errors and, by the end of the first inning, had sent eight batters to the plate and led, 3-1.

“Her motion was kind of weird, her release point,’ said Wimmer, who singled and scored a pair of runs. “We just had to stay patient. Seeing her a lot got us ready.’

Maher has been one of the team’s unheralded players this season. The junior shortstop made every play that came her way and the two-hole hitter was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.

“I learned a lot playing shortstop by watching (All-Delco) Michele (Hagarty) when I was a freshman,’ Maher said. “I’ve just been working a lot at getting better.’

Chi started to run away from the Bears with three runs in the third inning. Tiffany Malin drove in a run with a hustling double after Ashley Feehly singled and moved all the way to third on a two-base error. Wimmer continued to mow down the Bears, striking out six of seven batters at one point, and the Eagles would tack on three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. Thornton ripped a two-RBI single to bring home Nicole O’Donnell and Coale.

“Really, it was the sloppy first inning, which can kind of kill us and that’s when the other team gets most of its runs’ Wimmer said. “After that, we kind of buckle down.’

The Bears showed a faint pulse in the seventh inning when they loaded the bases with one out, but Wimmer forced a popup to Thornton at third base, followed by a soft grounder to shortstop to end the game.

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