It was just one of those days when very little went St. Hubert’s way.
The usually reliable pitching and defense that had held opponents to a combined three runs in the past six Catholic League games forgot to set the alarm clock. The timely hitting largely responsible for seasonlong domination was stuck in traffic and unable to show up in time to save the day.
Instead, hard-hit balls found gloves connected to the opposition’s diving bodies. Bang-bang plays measured by inches seemed more like miles because they constantly favored the other side.
Any way one dissects the Catholic League softball championship last Wednesday at Arcadia University, St. Hubert always ended up on the wrong side of the ledger.
Final score: Bonner-Prendie 6, St. Hubert 3, securing the former its first Catholic League softball title since 1982.
“Whatever could have gone wrong did,” said Bambies coach Dave Schafer. “Maybe we were pressing a little bit, but that is not an excuse. We didn’t play well and they did play well.”
Schafer had just completed a post-game talk with the visibly disappointed — but maturely composed — Bambies. About 30 yards away, Prendie was busy taking pictures and passing around the Catholic League title plaque, an honor that Hubert’s had enjoyed last season, two of the past three years and four of the past six.
Not this time.
Led by senior pitcher Brooke Lachette’s steady arm and a barrage of a 10-hit, four-walk offense, Prendergast never relented.
Sandwiched between single runs by Prendie in the first and third innings was a Bambies tally in the second. But even that proved deflating, as the run was produced by a two-on, no-out double play grounder that plated senior catcher Jess Grzywna, who had led off with a double. Grzywna was one of only two Bambies with multiple hits, the other being senior leftfielder Taylor Mack, who slapped a pair of doubles from the ninth spot in the order.
The only other Hubert’s highlights were a seventh-inning RBI groundout by freshman shortstop Danielle Franks (playing in place of injured sophomore Jazmin Ortiz), and a mammoth, two-out home run by senior pitcher Erica Ragazzone.
Although St. Hubert was favored against a team that had stunned Cardinal O’Hara and Lansdale Catholic via identical 2-0 shutouts in the preceding playoff tilts, Schafer was careful to point out that his players did not overlook its championship opponent.
“They reached the championship on merit and they are a very good team,” Schafer said. “We ended up not playing well. We made mistakes that we don’t usually make and we didn’t get timely hitting. But Prendergast played better and deserves everything they got. They are worthy champions.”
After a warm congratulatory embrace with Prendie coach Eleanor Orsborn, Schafer made a point of stopping by the victorious huddle and lauding them on a job well done. It was a class move and many Pandas, all of whom offered an appreciative round of applause after Schafer’s quick but meaningful speech, extended verbal praise for understanding the true meaning of sportsmanship.
The rich irony of two schools playing for the Catholic League title a little more than a year removed from almost having to close their doors did not go unnoticed by either team.
“We were both in the same boat last year, and they have a really nice group of girls,” said senior centerfielder Claire Alminde. “Someone had to win and someone had to lose.
“Am I shocked? Not really. They won the game. They played better. I am disappointed, but they’re a good team. I’m grateful to have won two championships. Hopefully, we’ll win states.”
Alminde was referring to the Bambies’ upcoming PIAA Class AAAA district championship next Wednesday. Although admitting that “no game is more important than the Catholic League championship,” Alminde said she and her teammates were “relieved” and “very happy” after Schafer informed them that their season still had life.
Meanwhile, Bonner-Prendergast will play Public League champion Franklin Towne Charter for the city championship on Wednesday. At least one of their players — and probably many more — will be rooting for Hubert’s to emerge as state champs. At the end of the day, the Catholic League is a fraternity of competitors, with all schools appreciating one another after a hard-fought postseason in which eighth-seeded Little Flower knocked off top-seed Conwell-Egan before almost doing the same to the No. 2 Bambies in the semifinals.
“Both schools have such a respect for each other,” said Prendergast junior outfielder Bernadette Carey, whose sensational two-out diving grab of a Ragazzone liner in left-center field with the bases loaded ruined a promising rally in the fifth inning, keeping her team in front 6-1. “Not only about softball, though Hubert’s is definitely a school that has had an unbelievable amount of success.
“Everyone on both teams understood what the other went through. There was such fear. The thought of the two of us playing for the Catholic League championship seemed like an impossibility last year. Thank God that things worked out like they did.” ••
Reporter John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org