Towne falls just short of repeat in softball final

Franklin Towne Charter’s quest for a second consecutive league softball title was thwarted on a walkoff single by Central.

Job well done: Des­pite an im­press­ive run that saw Towne soft­ball end up back in the title con­test, the Coyotes were un­able to re­peat as cham­pi­ons.

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.” ••

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