Owen J. Roberts capitalizes on Great Valley mistakes, moves on to District 1-AAAA title game with 6-5, 10-inning win

ROYERSFORD — The Owen J. Roberts softball team had been down. In fact, they’d been down most of the game to Great Valley in the District 1-AAAA semifinals Tuesday.

To go into a losing position again — especially in the 10th inning — did not interest the Wildcats in the slightest. And left fielder Graceton Griffith was going to do something about it.

“It was a make-it-or-break-it moment,’ the Wildcats senior said. “If they would have gone up, I think we would have been able to rally back but to have that throw and for (catcher) Lauryn (Wensel) to get the tag down, I think it boosted our confidence to get this win.’

In the top of the 10th inning with the international tiebreaker rule in effect to put a runner on second base, Griffith tracked an Emilie Kirk single to left-center field and unleashed a perfect strike to catcher Lauryn Wensel to tag the runner out at home plate and help ensure the Wildcats wouldn’t go down again after trailing by five runs in the middle of the game.

They wouldn’t trail again.

Nikki Testa’s chopper to shortstop brought home courtesy runner Emily Shaheen from third base to plate the winning run in the bottom of the 10th to give Owen J. Roberts a 6-5 comeback victory over Great Valley to advance to the district championship game Tuesday at Spring-Ford’s Ram Park.

Griffith’s throw didn’t necessarily determine the outcome, but it was a microcosm of the excellence in the OJR defense that catapulted the team into Thursday’s District 1-AAAA final against Pioneer Athletic Conference champion and No. 2 seed Perkiomen Valley (a 1-0, 10-inning winner over Avon Grove Tuesday).

The No. 9 seed Wildcats (20-3) got back into a game they trailed 5-0 entering the fifth inning by pitcher Kylie Glenn (10 innings, 11 hits, four earned runs, three strikeouts) getting a handle on the hot-hitting Patriots lineup and the OJR defense shored itself up while the Patriots defense was faltering (six errors).

It led to a defeat for Great Valley, the upstart No. 20 seed that had knocked reigning PIAA champion Souderton during its run to the semifinals, who were left to look back on costly miscues and turned sophomore pitcher Morgan Orlowski into a hard-luck loser (10 innings, two earned runs, six hits).

“No one thought there was a chance we’d still be playing in a district semifinal, and if we’re able to make a play in the infield with two outs in the fifth, we’re getting ready to play in a district final,’ Great Valley coach Jeff Celucci said. “But you can’t make that many mistakes against a good team like OJR. We just have to put this one behind us and get ready for what comes next. No matter what happens Thursday (in the seeding playback game against Avon Grove), we’re playing in states, and once you get there, anything can happen.

In the first four innings, defense didn’t look like it would be a factor in the semifinal. The Patriots plated a run in the first inning (Emilie Kirk RBI single to score Marit Vike), three runs in the second thanks in part to a two-run double by center fielder Sarah Schubert (2-for-4, three RBI) and a run in the fourth on Schubert’s RBI triple for a 5-0 lead.

It would have been cause for alarm for most teams, but the Wildcats can keep their nerve, as proven in last week’s quarterfinal win (4-3) over No. 1 seed Neshaminy.

“We’re a good comeback team. If we’re down, we can be down for a few innings, but once we get that one hit, our hits just keep coming off and we just keep going and going,’ Griffith said.

“We’ve been through this many times and we all know how to fight. This team never gives up, it never stops,’ said third baseman Brianna Smith, who was among OJR’s best defensive players on the day.

OJR got on the board with three runs in the fifth. Alissa Vining reached on a throwing error by the GV third baseman that led to Wensel and Camryn Glenn (2-for-4) scoring and Vining later came in to score on a wild pitch.

In the sixth, Smith led off with a double and Kylie Glenn helped her own cause with a triple to plate courtesy runner Nikki MacMullin. Bridet Guinan, running for Glenn, then came across on a passed ball for the improbable tying run to make it 5-5.

“Give that team (OJR) credit, though,’ Celucci said. “They never packed it in, even down 5-0. We made mistakes that helped them, but they took advantage of every mistake we made.’

OJR nearly won the game in the seventh when Camryn Glenn led off with a triple, but Orlowski incredibly worked a fly out, strikeout and groundout to escape.

Kylie Glenn and Orlowski matched each other to take it to the 10th inning and induce the tiebreaker rule.

The Patriots looked like they would take the lead when Kirk’s grounder to short took a huge hop over the glove of Camryn Glenn, but Griffith was there to make the tide-turning throw to home.

OJR was textbook in its 10th, Shaheen sacrificed over to third on a Sydney Schnarr’s bunt before Testa chopped one toward shortstop Vike, who sailed the throw past the catcher as Shaheen sent the Wildcats home in a walk-off.

Owen J. Roberts had success in the regular season, but it has taken it up a notch in the postseason.

“The win against CB South (triggered us) because we had a big upset (loss) last year in the first round of districts. We knew once we went there we did not want to feel the same way we did when we left there last year,’ Griffith said. “From that win on, we haven’t stopped.’

NOTES — Other notable defensive plays for OJR were Camryn Glenn throwing out a runner at home in the ninth inning, Smith’s running catch in foul territory and Wensel picking off a runner at first in the 10th.

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