Northeast Times

Bambies run out of magic in title game bout

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.” ••

You can reach at jknebels@gmail.com.

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