St. Basil Academy pitcher Erin Gallagher used to struggle with bouts of wildness. However, with help from a coach and increased concentration, she has shown marked improvement in finding the strike zone.
In yesterday's Athletic Association of Catholic Academies softball showdown against Nazareth Academy, Gallagher was in full control. She tossed a two-hit shutout, walking only one batter and striking out three, as the Panthers topped the host Pandas, 1-0.
From growing up in Northeast Philadelphia and attending St. Matthew Church, Gallagher is friendly with many of Nazareth's players.
"I know just about everybody on the team," she said. "That makes games against them even more intense - it makes me want to win that much more."
Gallagher, a 5-foot-8 junior, yielded an infield single in the first inning and a double in the sixth. The 16-year-old threw 82 pitches, 50 for strikes. She mixed a fastball, drop curveball and screwball.
"I was throwing my screwball inside and jamming batters with it," said Gallagher, who recently moved with her family to Abington. "I just got it working this year, so I like to use it a lot."
St. Basil improved to 14-1 overall and 11-0 in the AACA. The Panthers have won 52 consecutive regular-season league games since losing to Nazareth on May 7, 2003.
"We try to keep it low-key," coach Steve Sonneborn said about the winning streak. "I would rather the girls stay focused on playing softball and the game at hand."
St. Basil scored the winning run in the seventh inning. Amanda Bachmann and Kelli Lyons opened the frame with singles. After a double-play grounder to second base, Stephanie Ullrich drove home Bachmann by turning on a low-and-outside pitch and poking it into right-center field.
In Tuesday's 3-0 home win over AACA rival Gwynedd-Mercy, Gallagher pitched a perfect game, with 12 strikeouts. It was the first of her high school career.
For a brief period yesterday, Gallagher was only concerned with the health of Nazareth pitcher Emily Grzywna's mother. Standing on a paved path about 10 yards behind St. Basil's bench, Sue Grzywna was struck above the left eye with a sharply hit foul ball. She was driven to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Gallagher and Emily Grzywna attended St. Matthew together, and the neighboring families were close. "I've known Mrs. Grzywna since I was born," Gallagher said. "I was just hoping she was OK."
Emily Grzywna took the loss, allowing six hits in seven innings, striking out two. Forty-seven of the junior righthander's 65 pitches were strikes.
The second-place Pandas (9-4, 8-2) could meet the defending-champion Panthers again on May 16, if both squads advance to the AACA final at Arcadia University.
St. Basil000 000 1 - 1 6 2
Nazareth000 000 0 - 0 2 1
WP: Erin Gallagher. LP: Emily Grzywna. 2B: SB–Erin Gallagher; N–Brandy Dianno.