MEDIA >> Without its upset win over Penncrest earlier this month, Strath Haven wouldn’t have qualified for the District One Class 5A tournament.
That in itself was plenty special for the Panthers, since it marked their first postseason berth in 22 years. With it, though, the No. 16 Panthers received a rematch with the top-seeded Lions Wednesday at Barrall Field in Media.
Penncrest wasn’t about to let history repeat itself.
Maya Hartman pitched a complete-game three-hitter, striking out eight, and Emma Stauffer drove in four runs as the Lions rolled over the Panthers, 8-1.
Penncrest moves on to play No. 8 Great Valley, a 4-2 winner over No. 9 Phoenixville, on Friday. Four teams from District One will advance to the state tournament.
“We really prepared a lot more for this game,” Hartman said. “We’ve spent the last week working toward their pitching and how they hit last game. We all felt really prepared coming into this game. We knew that (Strath Haven pitcher Malia Calciano) throws a lot of movement, but it’s not really overpowering, so we used to struggle with that type of pitching. We really worked a lot on making sure that we were staying on-plane, no matter where the ball broke.”
Hartman got offensive support early and often. Battery mate Kailey Martin cracked a first-inning RBI single that brought home Julia Eckels, who scored twice more later. Two innings later, Stauffer and Martin both roped RBI singles for the hosts, and Victoria Reed chased home a run when she hit into a 5-3-2-5 double play.
Grace Kochanowicz’s single, plus an error, got the Panthers on the board when Sophie Bolinger came across to score in the fourth. Stauffer dashed any threat of a Strath Haven comeback in the bottom of the sixth inning by ripping a bases-loaded, bases-clearing triple to put the Lions up by a touchdown.
“We mesh so well together and we’ve been playing together so long that I just think we realized that we could do this,” said Martin, who finished 3-for-4 with a pair of ribbies. “We had kind of a rut in the middle of our season, but now, we’re back. We knew we were coming out strong against them today. We were ready.”
Strath Haven couldn’t get its bats on track against Hartman. She overpowered the Panthers’ hitters all day, racking up six of her eight punchouts in the first three innings. Calciano, Kochanowicz and Bolinger were the only three able to tag her for hits. Despite that, the upstart Panthers were happy to have put Strath Haven softball back on the map with its first playoff appearance in nearly a quarter-century.
“We were making contact,” Bolinger said. “It wasn’t dropping as we would have liked, obviously, but I think last game, we were just seeing the ball a little better. We had a different attitude today. Overall, I wouldn’t say we had a bad game. Even though we lost, I’m still really proud of our team. It’s really gratifying to know that all the work we put in during winter workouts paid off. We put in so much work, so I think we really deserve it.”
Next year, they’ll look to do one better and put themselves in the same place that Penncrest will be in Friday.