Northeast Times

Ryan, Towne softball advance to league title games

In their quest for a Cath­ol­ic League title, the Arch­bish­op Ry­an soft­ball play­ers know Andy Hafele is out there some­where, look­ing down on them. 

The Rag­dolls kept their un­defeated league re­cord in­tact with a 2-1 squeak­er over Con­well-Egan in Monday’s semi­final match­up. Fol­low­ing a 12-0 reg­u­lar sea­son, Ry­an ad­vanced to Thursday’s cham­pi­on­ship game (4 p.m., Ar­ca­dia Uni­versity) against Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic. The Rag­dolls are 14-for-14 in league con­tests this sea­son, one that began with heart­break when long­time head coach Hafele died of can­cer in Feb­ru­ary. 

“I couldn’t be prouder,” said in­ter­im head coach Vince Capizzi, Hafele’s top as­sist­ant for 12 years, fol­low­ing Monday’s win. “The kids are play­ing as a team and lift­ing each oth­er up. It’s a team ef­fort, from the top starter all the way down to the last kid on the bench. We’re try­ing to win this for Andy.”

One of Capizzi’s top play­ers, pitch­er/in­field­er Kerri Dadal­ski, con­curred.

“It’s ex­tremely im­port­ant for every single one of us to win this for Mr. Hafele,” said Dadal­ski, who shut down Little Flower on the mound in the quarterfi­nals, knocked both runs in against Egan and re­cor­ded the fi­nal two outs in re­lief in a pres­sure-packed situ­ation. “It’s our mis­sion. It’s all for him, be­cause we know we wouldn’t be here without him. He’s watch­ing us in every game and mak­ing sure we stay in­tact.”

Be­fore each game, the Rag­dolls gath­er in a circle and pray around Hafele’s Mass card. His wid­ow, Maryel­len, at­tends most games, with her pres­ence serving as a shot of ad­ren­aline for the Rag­dolls. 

“She told us, ‘Girls, no mat­ter if you win or lose, I will al­ways love you,’ ” Dadal­ski said. “We know that he would be proud of us.”

Of course, the Rag­dolls also know they are run­ning in­to a tal­en­ted Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic team that will do everything in its power to wrestle that cham­pi­on­ship away, re­gard­less of the sen­ti­ment­al cir­cum­stances. 

“When it comes down to it, the last game will be a dog­fight,” Dadal­ski said. “Both teams are go­ing to want it. The toughest dog will be the one who pulls it out.”

“We’re look­ing for­ward to this,” Capizzi ad­ded. “We’re pumped, and the kids are ready. We’ve just got to go do it.”

***

Any road to a cham­pi­on­ship will be rife with potholes and speed­bumps. The Frank­lin Towne Charter soft­ball team is liv­ing proof.

Towne, a year re­moved from win­ning the pro­gram’s first Pub­lic League title, hit a few snags dur­ing the 2014 cam­paign. For starters, the moth­er of second base­man Deanna Robin­son, one of the team’s most im­port­ant play­ers, died of can­cer in the sea­son’s early stages. 

The team stumbled in­to the post­season, drop­ping three of its fi­nal five games where the bats went mostly si­lent. But the post­season rep­res­ents a fresh start, a com­pletely clean slate. So far, Towne has seized that second op­por­tun­ity.

The Coyotes opened the play­offs by throt­tling Kens­ing­ton and Mas­ter­man be­fore com­ing face-to-face with Swen­son in Monday’s semi­final con­test at Phil­adelphia Uni­versity. Robin­son went 3-for-4 with three RBI, and pitch­er Laura Smith shook off a shaky third in­ning in lead­ing Towne to a tight 7-6 win. In a game Towne once led 4-0, Smith, who won last year’s cham­pi­on­ship game, made sure she fin­ished what she star­ted.

“I know Laura likes to close it out,” head coach Jen Da­ley said. “If she starts something, she’s go­ing to fin­ish it. After the third in­ning, she was able to calm down and keep it to­geth­er for our of­fense.”

The Coyotes will get their chance to re­peat in Thursday’s cham­pi­on­ship game (3 p.m., Phil­adelphia Uni­versity) against fa­mil­i­ar foe Cent­ral.

The Lan­cers knocked off Towne, 10-8, on April 28; it was a game the Coyotes fell be­hind 10-1 be­fore ral­ly­ing for sev­en runs in the sev­enth. Da­ley and com­pany are hop­ing to get an early jump on Cent­ral this time out, say­ing it’s im­per­at­ive “to make sure we’re ready to come out swinging. We’re hop­ing to make it hap­pen early.”

Either way, “I’m so proud of them,” Da­ley ad­ded. “I know they can win. They just need to go and leave it all on the field. The seni­ors really want it. They don’t want to give the trophy back. It makes me very proud.” •• 

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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