Emotions will be running high when St. Hubert visits Archbishop Ryan today in a Catholic League softball quarterfinal.

The Northern Division rivals and Northeast Philadelphia neighbors split regular-season meetings, both winning close road games. The second-place Ragdolls won by 1-0 on April 25, and the third-place Bambies triumphed, 2-1, on May 10.

In the high-stakes rubber match, fireballer Sara Michalowski, a Hofstra recruit averaging about eight strikeouts per game, will pitch for Ryan. She is expected to face fellow righthander Mary Hoch.

"I think we're playing the best softball we have all year," St. Hubert coach Dave Schafer said. "Hopefully, we'll be up to the challenge."

In their win at Ryan, the Bambies played stellar defense. More of the same, plus timely hitting, will be needed to beat Michalowski and company for a second time.

St. Hubert has been led on offense by junior second baseman/pitcher Heather Brabazon, senior centerfielder Megan Layburn, junior shortstop Carly Sippel and freshman third baseman Melissa Robinson.

Offensively, Ryan has been sparked by Michalowski and a trio of juniors: catcher Danielle Sweeney, rightfielder Kasey Barnes and first baseman Jill Johnstone.

"If we play our game and play good defense, I like our chances," Ryan coach Andy Hafele said.

Surprise finalist. After placing fourth in the regular season, Villa Joseph Marie will meet second-place Nazareth for the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies championship today at Arcadia University.

Despite 6-0 and 11-1 regular-season losses to the Pandas, VJM coach Tom Armbruster believes the Jems, who shocked first-place St. Basil in the semifinals, can come out on top.

"There are going to be two teams on the field [today]," Armbruster said. "One of them beat St. Basil and the other didn't."

Megan Verdeur, a junior shortstop and leadoff hitter, has been VJM's offensive catalyst. Junior pitcher Jamie Kloss, freshman second baseman Breanna Pletnick and junior third baseman Kerriann Kane have also made key contributions.

Tough draw. If North Penn gets past Cheltenham in today's first-round PIAA District 1 Class AAAA playoff game, as expected, the 10th-seeded Maidens would face No. 7 Central Bucks South in Wednesday's second round.

Likely awaiting the North Penn-C.B. South winner is No. 2 Hatboro-Horsham, which will play either No. 15 Central Bucks West or No. 18 Neshaminy in the second round.

In their bid to reach the semifinals - and earn the state tournament berth that comes with it - the Maidens will need strong efforts from pitcher Beth Everist (15-4 record, 127 K's in 107 innings, 1.77 ERA), third baseman Brittany Allman (.404 batting average, 20 RBIs) and shortstop Dee Eppinger (.277, 17 RBIs, 7 HRs).

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien

at 610-313-8019 or robrien@phillynews.com.