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District 1 Class 6A Softball: McClure, Pennsbury gain a little revenge on Haverford

Haverford third baseman Kerri McCallum reaches over the railing to try and catch a pop up against Pennsbury during a PIAA District 1 Class 6A semifinal softball game Tuesday. (Kyle Franko/ MediaNews Group Photo)

FAIRLESS HILLS — Tuesday was a bad day for Haverford to play its worst game of the 2022 season.

The fourth-seeded Fords had a difficult task facing No. 1 Pennsbury in a District 1 Class 6A semifinal. They had defeated ace Ainsley McClure and the Falcons less than a year ago in the PIAA semifinals thanks to a dramatic walk-off homer by Emma Taylor. There would be joy to be had on this day.

Haverford struck out 12 times and committed two costly errors, which enabled Pennsbury to punch its ticket to the district championship game with a 2-0 victory. It was the first loss of the season for the Fords (22-1).

Taylor was great on the mound, but her normally reliable defense made a pair of misplays on fly balls in successive fashion to begin the bottom of the sixth inning. Shortstop Shannon Gavigan lost a pop up in the sun and Meghan Kent was unable to haul in a shallow fly in right field.

Haverofrd pitcher Emma Taylor delivers against Pennsbury during a PIAA District 1 Class 6A semifinal Tuesday afternoon. (Kyle Franko/ MediaNews Group Photo)

Even more annoying for Haverford was how Taylor came back to strike out cleanup hitter Sam Raub, only to see the next batter, Laney Freiband, drop a perfect bunt five feet away from home plate, allowing the speedy Quinn McGonigle to slide safely with the game’s first run. Ava Storlazzi followed with a single that dropped in no man’s land between Gavigan and left fielder Kylie Ingram to give Pennsbury a 2-0 lead.

“It’s frustrating. I don’t know if they had any real hard hits,” said Taylor, who allowed four bloop hits and one bunt single. She struck out seven. “In the fifth inning, that’s when we got out of it (after Pennsbury’s first two hitters reached base), so you know that it’s possible. That’s always the goal. When an inning like the sixth inning happens, we just have to do a better job focusing offensively when we get our chance.

“We just didn’t have the offensive presence that we’ve had all season, so we’ve got to come back with that for our next game.”

Haverford has clinched a spot in next week’s state tournament. The Fords will meet No. 2 Spring-Ford in the District 1 third-place game Thursday. The Rams fell to No. 3 North Penn, 5-2, in the other semifinal.

“We have to come back strong and just cut down on a couple of our errors and mistakes,” Taylor said.

McClure, who pitched a perfect game against Garnet Valley in the quarterfinals, didn’t give much thought about her history with Taylor and the Fords.

“More than anything it was the fact that it was a close game. Those are always fun,” said McClure, who is bound for Franklin & Marshall. “Kudos to them, their pitcher is fantastic. She’s great on the mound, great at-bat, all of it. Yes, it did feel good because they did knock us out last year, but it’s just like any other team. We take it one team at a time and move on to the next.”

McClure, who piled up 12 Ks, retired the first 10 hitters she faced before senior third baseman Kerri McCallum hit a single up the middle with one out in the fourth. She was left stranded at second.

“We always say more games are lost than won,” Haverford coach Bob Newman said. “Who’s going to make that first mistake? That’s really what it comes down to.”

Haverford’s best opportunity to score came in the fifth when Grace Ciochetto was hit by a pitch and Kylie Ingram dropped a bunt single. Madie Culbertson moved the runners up with a sacrifice. With one out, Claudia Stuck was called out on batter’s interference, then McClure struck out Kent to end the inning.

In the sixth inning, McCallum stroked an opposite field single to right, but was picked off first by catcher Ro Mulholland.

The Fords advanced to the state final a year ago and believe they have what it takes to get back to Penn State in June.

“Knowing that it’s my senior year, there’s definitely more urgency this year,” McCallum said. “We want to keep playing and go deeper than we did last year.”

In a District 1 Class 6A playback game:

Garnet Valley 3, Downingtown East 2 >> The ninth-seeded Jaguars clinched a berth in the PIAA Class 6A tournament next week with a victory over the No. 12 Cougars.

GV scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth off a Downingtown error. The Cougars cut their deficit to 3-2 in the seventh, but the Jags held on for the win.

Junior pitcher Anna Sidlowski allowed one earned run on two hits, striking out five. Emily Orsini and Zoey Rogers each had a hit for the Jags.

Garnet Valley plays the winner of Quakertown and Hatboro-Horsham in the fifth-place game Thursday.

In a District 1 Class 5A playback game:

Upper Perkiomen 7, Marple Newtown 4 >> The fifth-seeded Tigers failed to clinch a spot in the state tournament as No. 3 Upper Perk scored four runs in the bottom of the first and never looked back. Amanda O’Keefe produced two hits and two RBIs in the loss.

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