UPPER DUBLIN >> Ellie Kelcy wanted to hit a ball over the fence before her senior season ended.
The Upper Dublin third baseman isn’t a prolific power hitter, she hadn’t hit a home run since her freshman year, but she picked a pretty good time for her second on Monday. She hadn’t hit a home run in a while, but it had been far longer since the Cardinals had won a playoff game, much less made the postseason.
Kelcy’s three-run shot in the bottom of the fourth ended up making it an early afternoon as the No. 5 Cardinals topped No. 12 Chichester 12-0 in five innings in the opening round of the District 1-5A playoffs.
“It felt amazing, I’m really glad I was able to do it,” Kelcy said. “I knew it was over the outfielder but I didn’t think it was going over the fence until I saw it actually make it.”
UD coach Heather Boyer had the stat ready after the game. The Cardinals hadn’t won a playoff game since a 13-inning win over Interboro in the first round of the 2004 District 1 playoffs, which was also the last time Upper Dublin made the postseason.
The difference this year is due to a couple factors. First is an infusion of youth, including freshman pitcher Chloe Foster, freshman right fielder Briann Kesslick, sophomore first baseban Gretchen Wolpert and sophomore catcher Lauren Carboni.
Second was the amount of time the team put into its hitting throughout the offseason, work which has paid off all spring. Finally, the team’s seniors like Kelcy made sure the younger players weren’t cast off or ignored, fostering a team culture that snapped the 15-year playoff drought.
“We’ve been working on hitting since September and going twice a week since November so they’ve spent a lot of quality time together and really gelled, which is a credit to our senior leadership,” Boyer said. “They’ve really done a good job making sure the underclassmen feel welcome, appreciated and like they belong.”
“When I was a freshman, it wasn’t like that, there were a lot of cliques,” Kelcy said. “We didn’t want that so we made them feel like family.”
Upper Dublin pounced early and never looked back on Monday. After Foster got a 1-2-3 inning to start the game, her offense gave her a five-run lead to work with by the time she returned to the circle.
Korynn Bischoff had the big hit in the inning, a two-run double that made it a 3-0 game before she scored on Kelcy’s RBI single. Kelcy later scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-0 as part of a 3-for-3 day with four RBI and three runs scored for the senior infielder.
Those two only got to back thanks to a couple of Chichester errors and the Eagles were never able to recover from a shaky start.
“We had a couple errors in the first inning with a couple walks and that compounds into a big first inning for them,” Chichester coach Jamie Blumenthal said. “That kind of set the tone for the game and we weren’t able to bounce back. Every ball we put into play, they made the play and we couldn’t make the routine play but I give them credit, they hit the ball well today and their pitcher kept us off balance.”
Chichester did a few moments of promise during the game. Riley Powers and Victoria Hudson both laced singles in the top of the second inning but Foster was able to pitch her way out of the jam.
The Cardinals were threatening in the second half of the inning when Eagles right fielder Gianna Bedwell came up with a superb defensive play. Bedwell charged a ball off the bat of Wolpert, making a shoestring catch and doubling off a UD runner at first for an inning-ending double play.
“We have everybody coming back and that’s what I went over with the girls, it’s nothing to hang your head about,” Blumenthal said. “There’s a lot to build on and that’s what we’re working toward.”
UD added two runs in the third with Kesslick picking up an RBI single. All that hitting work paid off with nine hits on Monday, including a 2-for-3 effort from Carboni and a 2-for-3 day for Bischoff, who had three RBI.
“It was a no-error day and by that, none of us ever put our heads down,” Bischoff said. “Any team has a chance to beat us so we have to make sure we keep our heads up but not have that overconfident attitude.”
Kelcy felt like UD’s first win over Abington during the regular season was the spark and since then, the Cardinals have played as a team. Bischoff said the Cardinals have rallied around each other all year. If there’s a mistake, they have each other’s backs and during at-bats, the entire team huddles beside the cage and shouts encouragement.
“I think all of us are doing it to prove it to ourselves but also for the seniors,” Bischoff said. “After the Abington game, we beat Upper Moreland and PW, some of the top teams in our league and it really brought us together. We have a good connection between all of us, which I think also helps.”
Senior Megan Muth led off the fourth with a walk and after a strikeout, Wolpert drew a walk before Carboni singled in Muth. Bischoff drove in Wolpert and brought up Kelcy.
The third baseman then crossed two goals off her list with a single swing of the bat, sending a pitch sailing into the air and over the left field fence, handing her a long-awaited home run and a long-awaited playoff win for the program.
Upper Dublin will travel to No. 4 Upper Perkiomen, a 10-9 winner over Phoenixville, in Wednesday’s second round. In 2004, the Cardinals run ended in the second round but this group is eager to try and write its own history.
“It’s mind-blowing,” Kelcy said. “I still can’t believe we’re here.
“We’ve gotten so far, so we just have to keep up the energy, working hard and not giving up.”
UPPER DUBLIN 12, CHICHESTER 0 (5)
CHICHESTER 000 00 – 0 2 4
UPPER DUBLIN 502 5x – 12 9 0
HR: UD – Ellie Kelcy. 2B: UD – Lauren Carboni, Korynn Bischoff.
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