The infield has been raked, the lines have been chalked and home plated has been dusted off as the final two teams in the Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media Softball Team of the Decade Bracket face off.
No. 4 Spring-Ford (2019), which would serve as the home team in the hypothetical matchup, meets No. 7 Lansdale Catholic (2014) in a clash of squads that advanced to the PIAA semifinals in their respective classifications. The Rams edged No. 1 Souderton’s 2014 state title team while the Crusaders pushed past No. 3 North Penn (2013) in extremely close semifinals.
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Spring-Ford opened the bracket with a win over No. 13 Hatboro-Horsham (2012), then knocked off the No. 5 Hatters of 2010 in the second round. Facing the top-seeded Indians, the only state champion that made the semifinal round, the Rams got some key defensive plays in the final innings to pick up a save.
LC’s path to the final began with a win over No. 10 Dock Mennonite (2010), before putting together a virtual walk-off against upset-minded No. 15 North Penn (2018) that saw the Crusaders overcome an eight-percentage point difference in the polls over the final 16 hours. Facing another Knights team in the semis, LC was able to get some late insurance runs and hold on to reach the final.
The final pits a pair of sophomore hurlers against each other in the circle while two upperclassmen-heavy lineups try to take advantage of any mistakes.
Spring-Ford’s Brianna Peck was sublime in 2019, posting a 16-1 pitching record with a miniscule 0.797 ERA as the Rams recorded an unbeaten regular season and PAC title. She was also a top threat at the plate, hitting. 474 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI, all adding up to a Gatorade PA State Player of the Year award last May.
While losses in the District I and PIAA 6A semifinals denied Spring-Ford any other trophies, the Rams still posted a 26-2 record and matched their deepest run in the state tournament, a mark they had set just two years prior in 2017. For many of the team’s upperclassmen, that experience of the 2017 run paid off in 2019.
Seniors Bridget Sharkey, Julia Heine, Jules Hughes, Logan Bonewitz and Maddy Little formed the backbone of the Rams’ lineup supported by standout juniors Ashley Della Guardia and Julianne Ryan with sophomore outfielfer Noelle Reid also factoring heavily. The 26 wins were a school single-season record.
With six seniors backing her up, LC sophomore Ashley Seal shouldered most of the pitching load during the Crusaders’ 20-6 season in 2014. A 13-3 record and 2.05 ERA helped Seal and her teammates reach the PCL final, win the District 12 3A title and make the program’s longest run in states to the 3A semifinals.
Seal was also one of four players to hit at least .300 while playing 19 or more games, part of a well-balanced and veteran lineup. Senior Greta Sheridan was the catalyst, smacking the ball at a .382 average, tying for the team lead with 26 hits, driving in 24 and belting six home runs.
Kristin Szczerpaniak led LC with 27 RBI while matching Sheridan’s 26 hits on a .342 average with three long balls. Alyssa Messina, Bridgette Harkins, Jenna Gibbons and Alicia Kradzinski rounded out the senior group, and all had double-digit hits for the season.
Amanda Bradley (21 hits) and Kaelyn Motts (.308 average) were key juniors in the lineup while Alessandra Messina drove in 10 runs as a sophomore and classmate Abby Caruso was a valuable player off the bench.