If the recent film The Silver Linings Playbook taught moviegoers anything about life, it’s that there’s always one to be found somewhere.
Sure, silver linings or moral victories don’t immediately present themselves in sports following a crushing defeat; however, as time passes, a sense of accomplishment ultimately bleeds through the fabric of any team, like a stain that can’t be washed away.
The Franklin Towne Charter softball team is no exception.
In 2013, Towne won its first ever Public League softball title, and since they were bringing most of that talent back to this year’s team, the Coyotes were determined from the start to repeat as champs.
For awhile, it didn’t seem like this end result would be in the cards this time around. Towne finished 7-3 in the division standings, but those three losses all came against teams it finished behind in the standings: Central, Philadelphia Academy Charter and Girls High, the team the Coyotes knocked off in the 2013 title game.
The bats in the lineup, which features five seniors, began to slump in the regular season’s home stretch. Not only that, but Towne was left emotionally drained earlier in the season when senior second baseman Deanna Robinson’s mother passed away after a long battle with cancer.
But in true Towne fashion, this team rallied. They opened the postseason with convincing wins over Kensington (17-2 final score) and Masterman (9-3) in consecutive days. Head coach Jen Daley’s team eked out a 7-6 win over Swenson in the semifinals on May 19, setting up Thursday’s championship matchup with Central, which had defeated Towne, 10-8, on April 28.
In the end, Daley, a former Towne softball player, was right when she admitted her fears of regular season losses coming back to bite her team in the end. Because Towne finished below Central in the regular season, the Lancers were the home team and thusly had the last at-bat; on Thursday, Central’s Jada Arrington singled home pitcher Sarah Rosenberg in the bottom of the seventh, breaking a deadlock and delivering the Lancers a coveted softball crown in a thrilling 6-5 victory.
A dejected Towne team could only sit, watch and wonder about what could have been.
“We’re all still a little bit heartbroken,” Daley admitted a few days after the defeat. “We had our school’s sports banquet that night, and we had to walk in there to celebrate the season right after we had just lost like that. But then I realized it wouldn’t be right to only think about one game. So much more happened this season, and we came together as a family more than I ever could have asked for.”
This team was incredibly close, from the five seniors chasing one final spot at glory to the entire team coming together to pick up Robinson at her lowest point. Not only that, but Larissa Smith, an outfielder on last year’s title team and older sister to current pitcher Laura Smith, came on board as an assistant to Daley after graduation, something that helped keep last year’s championship mojo alive.
They may have come up short in the end on the road to a repeat, but the fact remains that Daley’s softball program became just the second athletic team at the school to win a league title in its 14 years of existence, trailing just Brianna O’Donnell’s girls soccer team, which has won the last three and counting.
Winning another would have been sweet for sure, but at the end of the day, Daley couldn’t find any reasons for her team to hang its heads.
“I called them all in after the game and told them we put up a good fight against the best team in the league,” she said. “When I separated the seniors to talk to just them, that’s when I started to cry, because I wish I could have done something more for them. They all gave me a big hug, and the six of us talked for a bit, and we decided to go to the banquet and celebrate our accomplishments.
“Just having the experience of last year, and thinking about what they went through this season … for me it’s about much more than just one game. What I’ll remember most about this team is how we all came together when we needed each other the most. I would have loved to bring the trophy back to Towne, but we gained a lot more this season than I ever could have asked for.”
Central jumped on Towne in Thursday’s game right away, scoring four runs in the first. Towne battled back to tie the game with four in the fourth on the strength of four straight singles to open the game, as well as a two-run double from Devinne Corson. Central went up 5-4 in the fifth, but again Towne battled back to knot the score in the sixth.
However, Central had the coveted final at-bat, and scored relatively quickly to capture its second title in the last three years. Rosenberg, a native of Northeast Philly, won the game to increase her career record to 35-7. She’s racked up an astonishing 394 career strikeouts, as well.
“They won the game on a little blooper to shallow left,” Daley said. “There was nothing we could do. It was a really well-placed ball, and that was it. People say it’s better to get blown out in a game like that (instead of losing by one run in the final inning), but me personally, I’d rather lose by one than get killed. It showed we deserved to be there both last year and this year. We put up a really good fight.”
Towne may have come up short by a whisker, but the season isn’t over for Daley and company just yet. Smith, Corson, Robinson, Valentina Scalici, Maddie Cepparulo and the rest of the team’s veterans will play in Wednesday’s District’s 12 Class AAA title game against Lansdale Catholic with a spot in the state playoffs on the horizon thereafter.
“These games are actually my favorite,” Daley said. “They are so much fun, because there’s no pressure. Last year when we got to this point, we put up a really good fight, and I’m hoping we can do the same thing this year. We get two more chances to stay together as a team. If we win, great; if we don’t, we’ll still have fun celebrating our accomplishments together.” ••