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District 1-5A Softball: Oxford rallies past Upper Perk in semifinals

RED HILL >> The Oxford players visited an indoor batting facility early Saturday morning to take some swings.

Then they came out swinging some more, after their long bus ride to Upper Perkiomen for a District 1-5A semifinal. They clinched a spot in the PIAA Class 5A Tournament with a 13-3 win.

No. 7 seed Oxford (14-8), which knocked out 19 hits and took a 9-3 lead with seven runs in the fifth inning, will play for the championship against top-seeded West Chester Rustin Tuesday at Spring-Ford’s Ram Park at a time to be determined. The third-seeded Indians (14-9) will host Marple Newtown at 4 p.m. for third place and a state berth.

Cece Figueroa had four of the 19 hits for the Hornets and settled in after a rough pitching start for a complete game win. Dani Freer knocked in all three runs for Upper Perk, two on a homer in the third inning for a 3-0 lead.

“We’ve been down before,” said Figueroa. “We’re used to coming back. We knew we could do it. It was very exciting.”

Upper Perk scored one in the first and was hoping for more after a hit batter and consecutive singles by Kylene Gooch, Lynnsi Joyce and starting pitcher Maddy Dyer. But the Indians scored no more and left the bases loaded after a force at home on a grounder to second baseman Grace Allen, a strikeout and a a good catch of a foul pop by first baseman Angela Beadle.

“It was very exciting,” said Figueroa. “I was a little worried, but I have faith in my team. It was huge.”

“Giving up a run and having it be a momentum boost for us,” said Oxford coach Josh Socash.

Upper Perk made it 3-0 in the third on a leadoff double by Joyce, followed by a two-run shot to center by Freer. Then Dyer singled, but Figueroa retired the next six batters and allowed only two harmless singles the rest of the way.

Oxford closed to within 3-2 on a two-out, two-run single in the fourth by Hannah Aker. Then the Hornets collected seven hits and brought 12 batters to the plate in the decisive fifth as Molly Friel drilled a two-run double for a 4-3 advantage and Figueroa and Allen also knocked in runs with two-base hits.

“That team can hit,” said Upper Perk coach Dean Sullivan. “They put the ball in play. I thought we would put more runs up than three and I never thought we’d give up 13 runs.”

The Indians collected nine hits, but Figueroa did not walk any batters and needed only four pitches in the fourth and sixth innings and threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning on just five.

“We hit the ball hard at them,” said Sullivan. “Their outfield was playing a little deeper. I tell my batters to be aggressive. Two innings, we went four pitches.”

“Upper Perk’s a great team,” said Socash. “They put it in play. We were putting the ball in play early, swinging the bats. It’s exciting to see that. The girls have been working hard.”

Joyce went 3-for-4 for the Indians, who defeated Interboro 4-0 on Wednesday after an opening-round bye.

Natalia Donofrio had four hits for the Hornets, Ashley Flynn, McKenna Frank and Friel each picked up two and everybody else in the lineup had one.

“This season, I’ve been most focused on pitching,” said Figueroa, who had two singles and two doubles and knocked in two. “It (the four-hit game) is a confidence boost going into Rustin.”

The Hornets began the playoffs with a 4-3 win over Pottsgrove on Monday and then eliminated second-seeded Springfield (Delco) on the road on Wednesday, 4-3.

“It’s just been hitting and believing in each other,” said Figueroa. “And we’ve had some good fielding. Everything’s coming together. We’re excited to be in the playoffs.”

Rustin defeated fifth-seeded Marple Newtown 11-2 Friday while the Upper Perk-Oxford contest was postponed due to the threat of thunderstorms and heavy rain.

Sullivan was pleased that a school district crew came out at 7 a.m. to prepare the field for the noon game so that the Indians would not have to move the contest to a neutral site.

Upper Perk will take a couple of days off before the must-win consolation contest.

“I always let the girls relax,” said Sullivan. “We’ll come back and play on Tuesday.”

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