GLENSIDE, PA – The five All-Catholics joined together to rally the troops, and because of that, Archbishop Ryan’s softball team moved one step closer to a possible state championship.
After the Catholic League lost three straight PIAA state tournament first-round games – two of them via shutout – by a collective 28 runs to 7 on Monday at Arcadia University, the Class 5A District 12-top seed Ragdolls defeated District 3-4 Spring Grove, 5-4, in 10 innings to salvage league pride heading into Thursday’s quarterfinal round against rugged District 3-2 Lampeter-Strasburg 2 PM at Avon Grove High School.
“It’s no PCL championship,” said Ryan freshman pitcher Dana Bell, “but it’s definitely very exciting and really one of the top-10 games this year.”
A second-teamer despite a lights-out season, Bell was one of five Ryan All-Catholics who stepped up when victory appeared unlikely.
Trailing 4-1 after five innings thanks mostly to spotty fielding, poor base running, and blown opportunities, the Ragdolls came back with a vengeance to score three runs in the sixth to tie the game, and, finally, the game-winner in the 10th.
Senior shortstop Kate Ostaszewski, a first-team All-Catholic who finished with four hits in five at bats for the Catholic League champion Ragdolls, opened the sixth with a triple through the gap in left-center. She and senior centerfielder Annie Cashman, a second-team A-C, eventually scored on RBIs by Bell and second-team A-C third baseman Meghan Kidd.
With Bell at third, two outs, and trailing 4-3, third-team A-C second baseman junior Ava Brakoniecki provided the most clutch hit of her career, a hard-ground single to right field to tie the contest at 4-4.
“I was really anxious and nervous because I feel like I always get in that situation and I had two strikes on me and two outs,” said Brakoniecki. “I just wanted to put it into play and she got home.”
Bell, meanwhile, began dominating the later innings.
“I think the competition is very intense,” said Bell. “I’m not going to strike everyone out. I try and take it one pitch at a time and settle down and I know my team has what it takes.
“As the game moved on I started throwing my rise-ball more. In the beginning of the game when they were getting their hits, I wasn’t missing (her spots) big enough. (On offense) I think we all just had to settle down in the box and go for our pitch.”
In the bottom of the 10th, Cashman was placed on second base as part of the international tie-breaking rules. One out later and still on second, Cashman raced to third and then home after a walk-off single to left by Kidd. The throw home was strong, but Cashman’s superior speed proved too much for Spring Grove’s vaunted defense.
“I was really excited and confident that we would score,” said Cashman. “I told Meg Kidd to hit it anywhere on the grass and I would score, so when (coach John Kidwell) sent me, I was just running my hardest and ready to slide.”
The Ragdolls seemed uncertain the game was over as a fist-pumping Cashman crossed the plate, but as it dawned on them that they had forged a dramatic comeback, they began cheering wildly and embraced both Cashman and Kidd, who had never before contributed a walk-off hit.
“I was really nervous,” said Kidd, the only Ragdoll with two RBI. “I didn’t have the best game of my life, especially fielding, but with Dana’s pitching, everyone was just so up. I was just ready to go. I was excited.”
Kidwell was impressed with his squad’s resolve.
“They could've just rolled over and said, ‘We already won the Catholic League. No big deal,’ but they fought back and pulled it out,” said Kidwell. “They love to win and they wanted another game together.”
Thanks to five All-Catholics who chose a great time to blend forces, Archbishop Ryan’s wish was granted.
“No one from Ryan has ever won states,” said Haley Burns, the senior catcher who contributed two singles and a walk and who was inexplicably not named an All-Catholic this season, “so we wanna win it.”
The Ragdolls are now three chapters away from making that a best seller.
NOTES: Class 2A Conwell-Egan dropped a 14-7 decision to District 1 champ Bristol . . . Class 6A St. Hubert’s amassed one base runner and was no hit by District 1-3 North Penn, 10-0 . . . Class 4A Bonner-Prendergast encountered a similar fate in a 4-0 loss to District 3-2 East Pennsboro. The East Pennsboro senior pitcher, Cailey Joyce, struck out 12 and fired a no-hitter. She will attend La Salle University next year.