Upper Merion outlasts Pottsgrove in nine-inning thriller

UPPER MERION — Anything you can do, I can do better.

That seemed to be what the two pitchers were saying to each other in Friday’s District One AAA second round playoff game between Upper Merion and Pottsgrove at Walker Field.

Both the Vikings’ Olivia Sborlini and the Falcons’ Gabi Ermish went the distance, but it was Sborlini who had the last laugh as Upper Merion (17-3) won, 3-2, in nine innings.

In nine innings, Sborlini allowed two runs on seven hits, walked one and struck out three. Ermish, a junior who is verbally committed to Bryant University, surrendered three runs on 10 hits, struck out nine and walked two.

“I knew (Ermish) could pitch and I knew Olivia would match her and that’s about what happened,’ Upper Merion coach John Whitney said.

“I can’t talk more about our pitcher,’ Pottsgrove coach Julie Davis said. “Not only is she doing everything on the mound, she just got her 100th hit the other day. She’s just wrapping everything up for us.’

The game ended in the bottom of the ninth when Upper Merion’s Micaela Ghanayem stepped to the plate after Abby Volpe hit a two-out single to score Dezerea Kandy and tie the game at two. Volpe stole second and Ghanayem singled to right field. Volpe raced home and the Upper Merion bench broke into celebration.

“I was just trying to put something in play,’ Ghanayem said. “Just trying to help the team… I just had to rely on my mechanics and do what I had to do.’

Kandy, who scored two of the Vikings’ three runs, reached base in the ninth on an error. She stole second and advanced to third on another error before Volpe knocked her in to tie the game.

“She hit over .500 for us this year,’ Whitney said of Kandy, who reached third base four times in the game. “Unbelievable leadoff hitter. She gets on — it’s almost like giving her another base because I haven’t seen anybody throw her out.’

Pottsgrove (12-10) scored in the top of the ninth to take the lead when Shauna Maggio roped a no-out triple down the right field line to score Cori Dickinson. Sborlini recorded three straight outs to strand Maggio on third.

That was a theme in this one. In addition to leaving Kandy on third base twice, Ermish left the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, when one run would have ended the game, with a strike out.

Earlier in the eighth, Volpe singled, advanced to second on a fielder’s choice and went to third on a single. One batter later, third baseman Dickinson threw out Volpe at home to extend the game.

The best defensive play of the game came in the top of the eighth. Pottsgrove’s Sydney Schollenberger reached on a fielder’s choice that was the second out of the inning. Ermish stepped up next and scorched a double down the left field line and Schollenberger was being waved home. Upper Merion’s Riley Kontra hit Kandy, who relayed the throw to the plate and Ghanayem tagged out Schollenberger to keep the teams tied at one.

“I was just yelling, ‘ get the ball in,” Ghanayem said. “I knew Dezerea was going to give me a good throw to the plate. I was just trying to block the plate and get the out.’

“Two teams went at it,’ Davis said. “Great defensive plays out there.’

Upper Merion’s first run came in the top of the first inning. Kandy singled and advanced to third on a Sborlini single. Ghanayem grounded back to the pitcher to score Kandy.

Pottsgrove’s first run came in the top of the third. Molly McGeehan was hit by a pitch with two outs. Jenna Trythall reached on an error and Schollenberger singled home McGeehan.

Upper Merion will face Villa Maria in the semifinals Tuesday at a site to be determined.

Pottsgrove’s season comes to a close, but with a young roster, the Falcons have a bright future.

“Our catcher is a freshman,’ Davis said. “Ten of our 14 players are freshman or sophomores… We have one senior graduating… And we have a bunch of freshman coming up so we hope to rebuild and come again.’

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