UPPER GWYNEDD >> There have been plenty of games this season where things haven’t gone in Pennridge’s favor.
Saturday night, the Rams’ fortunes changed for the better. Junior Meghan Bauer gave them a tremendous outing in the circle, the defense came up big and the bats finally woke up.
The result was a 4-0 win over North Penn under the lights at Nor-Gwyn fields in the Maidens’ annual Community Night game.
“It does a lot right now,” Rams first-year coach Carol Atkinson said. “We hadn’t won a game in a few weeks and to come out and play like a team like we did here was just amazing. The girls came out fighting and never stopped.”
Bauer, who pitched the team’s last meeting, was stellar striking out eight and allowing just three hits.
“(Rams catcher) Skyler (Hengeveld) knew what pitches to call and how to approach the batters,” Bauer said. “I pitched well against them last time so I knew I had to come out tonight the same and the vibe was just to beat them.”
Both pitches cruised through the first innings, working around a couple of runners. Maidens (6-6, 5-4 SOL Continental) starter Bri Battavio was able to jam the Rams hitters and ended the second and third with big strikeouts with runners on base.
Bauer got some help from her defense in the second when third baseman Julia Helbing and second baseman Krista Yerk turned a clutch double play. The Rams’ (5-8, 2-7 SOL) hurler also did with her stuff, ringing up Kariam Bou in the first and Battavio in the third to end the innings.
Atkinson pointed to Bauer’s first inning back-to-back strikeouts of Battavio and Bou, North Penn’s 3 and 4 hitters, as an early turning point.
“It gets you super hyped,” Bauer said of the double play. “I can also take a deep breath and know they only have the hitter up and I can focus on that and we have two outs.”
Offense was hard to come by on either side early on but Yerk started the fourth off with a single into left. After a walk to Grace McGinley, Battavio made a great play on a Helbing bunt, wheeling around to get the runner going to third.
Bauer grounded into another fielder’s choice to leave runners at the corners and when the pitcher took off for second, the Rams struck. When the throw went to second, McGinley took off and was in safely on a high return throw to dent the scoreboard.
“Being the first team to score in the game really got us into it,” Bauer said. ” I just kept pitching the same as when I came out in the first inning, just thinking attack the batters, attack their weaknesses and get them to swing at stuff they normally wouldn’t swing at.”
Bauer then shut down the Maidens in the bottom half of the inning and stranded a runner at second in the last of the fifth to hold the lead. The Rams lefty also came up big in the sixth when North Penn threatened again.
Jordan Pietrzykoski beat out a bunt single to lead off, then advanced on a sac bunt by Battavio. Bauer came back to ring up Bou then shortstop Sam Harty was able to throw out Courtney Neal on a grounder.
“A lot of North Penn’s batters stay off the plate so we were trying to work a lot outside and a lot rise balls and high stuff they were swinging at,” Bauer said. “We threw a lot of those.”
Pennridge’s offense finally broke through in the top of the seventh, when the Rams collected five hits and three runs. After back-to-back one out singles by Harty and Motts, Megan Johnson plated Harty on a long single, McGinley singled in Hengeveld with two outs and Helbing got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
The insurance runs were big, but in the end not needed as Bauer closed it out with a 1-2-3 seventh.
“The morale, I think it was a big boost for them,” Atkinson said. “Megan pitched probably one of the best games we’ve had this season. She had nine strikeouts against them last time. It’s huge for the team.”
After starting just 1-7 in conference play, the Rams had reason to get down on themselves. But they never did and even into the late innings Saturday, they lined the fence in the dugout cheering on offense and played solid, focused defense.
Bauer said Saturday’s performance can put the team on a course to close out the season strong.
“Mainly it comes from each other,” Bauer said. “Coach Carol hasn’t given up on us at all and we haven’t given up on each other. A couple players were getting down about their hitting in this game and we kept going at them asking what are you going to do next time and they came out and got some big hits when we scored those runs.”