2018 PAISAA & Inter-Ac Champions, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister
GLENSIDE, PA – It had to end some way, but no one could have scripted this.
Springside-Chestnut Hill Academy, however, couldn’t care less how the winning run scored in its 3-2, nine-inning, PAISAA softball championship victory over Penn Charter May 24 at Arcadia University, just so long as the Blue Devils scored it.
“It’s Penn Charter, a huge rival for us,” said SCH 18-year coach Stephanie Mill, reflecting on her school’s first-ever softball state title. “It was a little nerve-racking because we know that Penn Charter always brings their ‘A’ game when they play us.”
When a seven-inning game reaches the ninth inning, international tie-breaking rules go into effect allowing each team to begin the frame with a runner on second base. With the scored knotted at 2-2, Penn Charter was unable to convert its opportunity in the top half, so the Blue Devils had a chance to win on a dramatic walk-off. That they did, sort of . . . more of a run-off.
Senior Lucy Lamb was chosen as SCH’s runner on second.
Sophomore catcher Erin Fennessy and junior Steph DeAngelis both reached base on a fielder’s choice, thus loading the bases with one out. On a 1-1 count to senior Rachel Kazlauskas, a very high pitch sailed to the backstop. Lamb sprinted toward home, slid through the bag, immediately stood up, and jumped for joy before being corralled by her jubilant teammates at home plate to celebrate the title.
Lamb said she, Mill, and Kazlauskas discussed strategy before the at-bat and agreed that Kazlauskas should take as many pitches as possible to increase the odds of a wild pitch or passed ball. Sure enough, it happened just as planned.
“I thought, ‘This is it,’” said Lamb. “As soon as I saw it tipped off her glove, I just had no hesitation, went in, and slid. All I remember is just feeling the dirt as I slid right into home and feeling the tag up on my upper body knowing I was completely safe. It was an amazing moment and I’m so happy I experienced it.”
Lost in the triumphant shuffle was an outstanding pitching effort by Kayla McTamney. The senior ace hurled a complete game, allowed seven hits, two runs, and most significantly, not a single walk.
McTamney only struck out three and said later that she had relies heavily on her defense. Among SCH’s key plays was a potential game-saving stop by a diving DeAngelis at second base with no outs in the eighth, a great throw and tag from Fennessy to junior shortstop Mo’ne Davis to cut down a would-be base stealer in the fifth (Fennessy also threw out a runner at second in the eighth), and a tremendous throw from left fielder Lamb to Fennessy that nabbed a runner at the plate for the last out of the seventh.
“I just knew I had my defenders behind me,” said McTamney. “I knew they would knock it down and make a play so I just put it over the plate, let them hit it, and then let them defend.”
Penn Charter entered as the three-time defending champion. Last year, SCH captured the Inter-Ac but was knocked out of the tourney by Episcopal Academy in the quarterfinals. Having already won the Inter-Academic League championship the day before by virtue of an 8-1 victory over Baldwin School that doubled as both a league game (it had been postponed by rain several times) and PAISAA semifinal, several SCH players stated that anything less than a PAISAA title simply would not suffice.
The game didn’t begin well for the Blue Devils. Penn Charter sophomore Maddie Solow led off with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by senior Grace Stansfield, and scored on a single by junior Abby Quinn. The Blue Devils rebounded with two runs in the fourth. The first scored when Davis slammed a triple to right field that scored junior Colby Oliver, who had led off with a single. Davis then scored the lead run on an infield error.
In the sixth, Penn Charter forged a 2-2 deadlock when Stansfield singled and came around to score on junior Abby Manion’s double to center field.
But in the end, the Blue Devils achieved school history.
“When you reflect back we had a pretty long season,” said Davis. “We played like eight games in Tennessee. It’s good that we worked that hard throughout, didn’t give up, and had a great outcome.
“I love this team. We had great chemistry the whole season. We were all close. I love playing on it. I looked forward to every single game and every single practice because the team is amazing.”
Mill was asked if this was her career highlight.
“My career highlight? Yeah,” said Mill with a humble smile. “Winning the Inter-Ac. Winning PAISAA. We were undefeated at home. We had 21 wins. I mean, in my first seven years of coaching I didn’t accumulate 21 wins. This is by far the highlight of my coaching career.
“In my 18 years as a coach I haven’t had a team that plays so well. I’m so happy for them. They deserve to win it.”