DOWNINGTOWN – It almost isn’t fair.
With a berth in the District 1 5A Softball Finals on the line, upstart Upper Merion not only had to go against Bishop Shanahan star Devon Miller on Friday. It also had to deal with a heady breeze that certainly wasn’t helping, and then the host Eagles scored an early run to take some of the pressure off their pitching ace.
Shanahan went on to upend the Vikings, 2-0, in semifinal action and will now get a chance to defend its 2018 district crown on Tuesday at Immaculata. And a very familiar league foe is waiting: top-seeded West Chester East.
“There is no question we want another shot at (East),” said Eagles’ head coach Ron Savastio.
The second seed, Shanahan improves to 16-6 overall, and two of the setbacks came during the regular season to the Vikings. The last meeting was back on April 8th, where East eked out a 2-1 win.
“We beat ourselves twice against (East),” Savastio pointed out. “I don’t think we’ll make the same mistakes. Miller pitched a two-hitter and we still lost.”
On Friday, it was another vintage Devon Miller performance. Sixth-seeded Upper Merion (14-8 overall) managed just two hits, fanned 15 times and got just one runner in scoring position in seven innings against Miller.
“I have to give Upper Merion a lot of credit — they were facing the top pitcher in the state,” Savastio said.
“If you play Shanahan, you know you are going to have to beat Devon Miller,” Vikings’ head coach Melissa Toto added. “She will work hard and throw it hard with good movement.”
To complicate matters, Miller not only shutout Upper Merion 10-0 in the districts a year ago, she also notched a no-hitter. The rematch was much more competitive, thanks to Vikings’ pitcher Olivia Barr, who surrendered just three hits and one earned run.
“We are playing tougher competition and we’re getting more experience,” said Toto, who has guided Upper Merion to a state tournament berth for the first time in program history. “My defense was great (Friday) and that’s keeping us in these games.”
When told that Miller struck out 15 of the 23 batters she faces, Savastio said: “Is that all?
“The kid is so special. I’m never surprised by what Devon does, except if she walks somebody. That’s the truth.”
Headed to Fordham University in the fall, Miller did not walk a single batter on Friday.
“Normally I try to go out there and fire past batters,” Miller acknowledged. “But this postseason I realize I need to be smarter — mixing the pitches and hitting the spots rather than just blow it by everyone.
“I’ve been working on keeping the walks low. In the postseason, I think the walks are more important than the strikeouts. As you saw today, we got an insurance run when I walked and we eventually scored.”
The Eagles made it 1-0 in the bottom of the first on an RBI single by Hanna Keiper, and the Vikings never seriously threatened the rest of the way. Katelyn Warren broke up the no-hitter with a single in the fourth, and Brianna Misseri added a single in the sixth, but both wound up stranded.
“Devon really rises to the occasion,” Savastio said. “She knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game.
“You give her just one run and it takes so much pressure off of her. It also takes the pressure off our defense.”
Shanahan added the insurance run in the fourth on a run-scoring double by catcher C.C. Grahn.
“Sometimes, when we don’t score early it can bring us down. To get that one run was key – we knew we could get their batters out,” Miller said.
“We thrive when we score early,” added Keiper, who went 2-for-3 for the Eagles. “If we haven’t scored by the fifth or sixth inning we tend to lose a little confidence.”
Bishop Shanahan dropped its final three regular season games but has now outscored three district opponents by a combined 21-0. And a big statistic is that the Eagles are avoiding costly errors in the field. On Friday, Shanahan did not commit an error.
“This team is determined to win (the district title),” Savastio said.
“Errors have been an issue for us all season long,” added Miller, who surpassed the 1,000 strikeout milestone earlier this month. “Today, we were solid. Nice and relaxed, and it showed.
“Both times we lost to West Chester East, they were all unearned runs.”
Bishop Shanahan 2, Upper Merion 0
Upper Merion 000 000 0 — 0
Bishop Shanahan 100 010 x — 2
2B – Grahn (BS).
WP – Miller. LP – Baar.