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2014 Lansdale Catholic gets late rally, edges 2019 Spring-Ford for Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Softball Team of Decade title

Lansdale Catholic players celebrate their win over Donegal in the PIAA Class AAA first round on Monday, June 2, 2014. (Geoff Patton/MediaNews Group File)

Lansdale Catholic needed another late-inning rally, but it all paid off again.

A final push of votes over the final three hours broke a seventh inning tie between No. 7 Lansdale Catholic (2014) and No. 4 Spring-Ford (2019) in the Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media Softball Team of the Decade bracket. The Crusaders, who knocked off a higher-seeded team for the second consecutive round, won by four or less percentage points for the third straight time.

Worthy of a final, LC topped Spring-Ford 51-49 in the voting to take home the Team of the Decade title.

The final game of the 16-team bracket came down to a pair of squads that won at least 20 games, reached their league championship game and advanced to the state semifinals. For LC, while the 2014 campaign didn’t bring home a coveted PCL title, the Crusaders did go 20-6, win the District 12 3A title and their run to the PIAA 3A final four remains the deepest run in program history.

Spring-Ford was untouchable in a perfect regular season that also saw the Rams put a stamp on things with a PAC title after being denied by weather issues the year before. In total, Spring-Ford went 26-2 in 2019, falling only in the District 1 6A and PIAA 6A semifinal rounds, with the state run mirroring their 2017 berth in the semis.

Aside from their accomplishments at the state level, the two teams did have other similarities. Both featured an experienced lineup, with Spring-Ford boasting five seniors and LC six, while they each leaned heavily on a sophomore pitcher.

The Rams’ Brianna Peck put up a miniscule 0.797 ERA in the circle but also hit .484 offensively and was named Gatorade PA State Player of the Year as a sophomore. Bridget Sharkey, Julia Heine, Jules Hughes, Logan Bonewitz and Maddy Little made up the senior class while juniors Ashley Della Guardia and Julianne Ryan and sophomore Noelle Reid were just as integral in the team’s success.

Spring-Ford knocked off No. 13 Hatboro-Horsham (2012), No. 5 Hatboro-Horsham (2010) and top-seeded state champion Souderton (2014) to reach the finals.

Lansdale Catholic’s path started with a matchup against No. 10 Dock Mennonite’s 2010 team. The Crusaders advanced 60-40 in the voting, their largest margin of victory. A pair of meetings with North Penn would take LC to the final round, but not without effort.

In the second round, the Crusaders slipped by No. 15 North Penn (2018) by a 51-49 margin, then faced state-semifinalist No. 3 North Penn (2013). Trailing by eight percentage points on the final day, Lansdale Catholic rallied hard and won 52-48 to set up the final with the Rams.

Typical of their yearly approach, the Crusaders supplemented their PCL schedule with a host of other area teams including Upper Dublin, Gwynedd Mercy Academy, North Penn and Hatboro-Horsham. They didn’t win all of them, but falling to competition from programs in the larger 4A classification was often more beneficial than a win over some of the teams that finished near the bottom of the PCL table.

LC went 10-2 in the PCL regular season with its only losses coming to annual contenders Archbishop Ryan and Cardinal O’Hara. The Crusaders got payback with a 4-0 win over O’Hara in the PCL semifinals but would again fall to Ryan in the league title game.

Rebounding quickly, LC thumped Franklin Towne Charter for the District 12 title then moved into the state playoffs. An 8-4 win over Donegal opened PIAA play to set the Crusaders up with a game against high-scoring Berwick.

Naturally, a pitchers’ duel was the outcome and LC sophomore Ashley Seal was the better pitcher on the day. The sophomore not only held Berwick to one run, but her two-run hit in the top of the seventh was the winning tally in LC’s 2-1 victory.

While LC would fall to Bethelehem Catholic in the next round, the run still stands as LC’s longest postseason run ever.

Seal was a two-way standout in 2014, picking up 13 wins in the circle with a 2.05 ERA and just one fielding error while hitting .300 with 11 RBI in an otherwise upperclassman-loaded lineup. Those veteran bats certainly did their part, especially those of the senior class.

Greta Sheridan led LC with a .382 average, tying for the team lead with 26 hits and driving in 24 runs including a team-best six home runs. Cleanup hitter Kristin Szczpaniak also collected 26 hits on a .342 average and led LC with 27 runs driven in to go with a perfect 8-for-8 on stolen bases.

All six LC seniors had at least 11 hits and were everyday players. Alyssa Messina hit .310 with 18 RBI, Alicia Kradzinski drove in 10, Bridgette Harkins had 19 hits and 11 RBI and Jenna Gibbons scored 13 runs on the season.

Juniors Amanda Bradley and Kaelyn Motts were both regular contributors with Bradley chalking up 21 hits and 12 RBI and Motts hitting .308. Seal wasn’t the only sophomore to chip in either as Alessandra Messina played in 24 games, tallying 12 hits and 10 RBI before taking over as one of the team’s top players the next two seasons.

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