Life on the diamond

Tiffany Di­Mat­teo plays for the Phil­adelphia Flash tour­na­ment team, the Arch­bish­op Ry­an soft­ball squad, and re­cently faced the area’s top ath­letes in the Car­penter Cup Clas­sic.

If soft­ball is in­volved, Tiffany Di­Mat­teo usu­ally is too. 

A righthan­ded out­field­er, Di­Mat­teo reg­u­larly plays for the Arch­bish­op Ry­an High School soft­ball team, as well as Phil­adelphia Flash — a highly com­pet­it­ive fast-pitch tour­na­ment squad — and was also chosen to com­pete in this year’s pres­ti­gi­ous Car­penter Cup Clas­sic. 

Di­Mat­teo joined 16 of the area’s best ath­letes — from Arch­bish­op Ry­an, St. Hubert and Little Flower, among oth­ers — to rep­res­ent the Phil­adelphia Cath­ol­ic League in this year’s show­case tour­na­ment, held June 20-23 at FDR Park in South Phil­adelphia. 

“It was an hon­or. I wasn’t chosen last year, so this was awe­some,” said Di­Mat­teo, who will enter her seni­or year at Ry­an. “The girls are so nice and you get to play with people who you nor­mally wouldn’t. It’s an hon­or.”

The Cath­ol­ic League squad scored a 9-2 open­ing-round vic­tory against Delaware North on June 20. They fell in their second game of the day, 5-1, at the hands of Sub­urb­an One League Amer­ic­an and Con­tin­ent­al.  

The loss placed the Phil­adelphia Cath­ol­ic League in­to the elim­in­a­tion round of the tour­na­ment, where they lost, 5-1, to Chester County on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, end­ing their Car­penter Cup run. 

“It was tough. We didn’t hit the ball and that’s the bot­tom line,” said Cath­ol­ic League coach Mark Case­rta, who also heads the Arch­bish­op Car­roll soft­ball squad. “We poun­ded the ball in the first game, then in the second game, we just died. We sat around. The first game was over at 10:25, then we sat around un­til one o’clock. I’d rather play back to back. 

“Over­all, the kids played well. But once you lose that game, you’re on edge a little bit,” he con­tin­ued. “We didn’t hit again. We had op­por­tun­it­ies, but we didn’t get the big hit we needed. We had too many strikeouts.”

Des­pite the Cath­ol­ic League’s lack of of­fense, there were some im­press­ive bats in the third out­ing. Con­well-Egan sopho­more Shan­non Strick­er smashed a triple in the first in­ning but was stran­ded on third. Two in­nings later, Arch­bish­op Pren­der­gast ju­ni­or Jack­ie Keifer had a single, fol­lowed by a double cour­tesy of Arch­bish­op Ry­an’s Heath­er For­ward, but the Cath­ol­ic League was un­able to pro­duce, once again leav­ing run­ners in scor­ing po­s­i­tion. 

Their only run came in the sixth. For­ward reached first after be­ing hit by a pitch. Di­Mat­teo laid down a per­fect sac­ri­fice bunt, ad­van­cing For­ward to second. St. Hubert sopho­more Erica Ragazzo­ne walked. Brooke Lack­ette, a sopho­more at Arch­bish­op Pren­der­gast, singled to load the bases for Neu­mann-Gor­etti’s Sofia Ced­rone. 

Ced­rone groun­ded out but de­livered the RBI, which would be the Cath­ol­ic League’s only run. Little Flower’s Kel­sey Mc­Donough struck out to end the in­ning. 

“We didn’t get as far as we wanted, but I think we played well,” said Di­Mat­teo, who made a diving catch in left­field for a double play in the bot­tom of the sixth. “We didn’t win but we still had fun.”

For Di­Mat­teo, many of her new Car­penter Cup team­mates were rivals dur­ing the high school sea­son, es­pe­cially those from power­house squad St. Hubert High School — Erica Ragazzo­ne, Jess Grzy­wna and Gabby DeLeo. 

The Rag­dolls and Bam­bies reg­u­larly battled throughout Cath­ol­ic League play this spring. Last week, though, all of that seemed like a dis­tant memory for them.

This time, they were on the same side. 

“The whole thing is a really fun ex­per­i­ence,” said Di­Mat­teo. “Now, all of the sud­den, we’re all play­ing for the same team, so we have fun with it.”

Al­though her Car­penter Cup run is over, Di­Mat­teo is far from fin­ished on the dia­mond. Tour­na­ment sea­son is in full swing with the Phil­adelphia Flash, and Di­Mat­teo once again is trav­el­ing throughout coun­try to face the best play­ers in the game. 

“I went straight from high school soft­ball to tour­na­ment ball, so the Car­penter Cup was kind of in the middle,” she said. “I love play­ing soft­ball. It’s fun for me. I play year round, all the time, and I love it. 

“It’s def­in­itely a lot of ded­ic­a­tion,” she ad­ded. “You don’t have nor­mal week­ends like nor­mal teen­agers, but I like it. The girls make it really fun.”

Di­Mat­teo has teamed up with the Philly Flash for five years, help­ing her squad qual­i­fy for the ASA (Am­a­teur Soft­ball As­so­ci­ation of Amer­ica) na­tion­als dur­ing that time. She’s traveled to Mary­land, Vir­gin­ia, Ohio and every­where in between.  

“It’s fun times with the girls,” said Di­Mat­teo. “You get to travel all over and the girls make it so much fun. We’re prac­ti­cing and we’re work­ing hard, but at the same time we’re laugh­ing and hav­ing fun. It’s great.” •• 

Ed­it­or Melissa Yerkov can be reached at my­

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