Spring-Ford, whose previous best finish in the PIAA District 1 softball playoffs was third place five years ago, won the Class AAAA championship yesterday with a 4-2, come-from-behind win over Central Bucks South at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High.
Sparked by Alexis Karkoska's leadoff double, the Rams (19-2) scored three times in the top of the sixth to erase a 2-1 Titans lead. Two more hits, including an infield single, were enough to produce the runs needed to make the eighth-seeded Rams winners of their third consecutive postseason game. Included in the three wins were upsets of top-seeded and previously unbeaten Downingtown West in the quarterfinals and fourth-seeded Pennsbury in the semifinals.
The Titans (16-2), making their first appearance in the district title game in the school's four-year history, were seeded third.
"Every hit is significant," said Karkoska, a senior who had homered earlier, when asked how big her double to right-center was. "We were down by one run at the time, so we just had to relax. I don't know what kind of pitch [off Devon Utterback] it was, but it must have been outside, because I took it that way. We knew we were going to win this game."
Winning pitcher Mandi Rush wasn't quite as confident as her teammate, acknowledging that the Titans hit better than the Rams had expected. The Titans collected eight hits off Rush but stranded 10 baserunners. Rush struck out two.
Rush said she and catcher Jess Whitmore "had to make some pitching adjustments because of the way they hit the ball. It was a little rough at first."
Karkoska, who has shared the pitching duties with Rush on occasion, staked the Rams to a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a home run off Titans starter Francesca Carrulo. South tied the score in its half of the inning on Morgan Decker's single with Shaina Steigerwalt on third.
The Titans, who knocked off defending district champion Owen J. Roberts to reach the championship game, had taken a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning. Nicole Rodi singled home Haile Stocks, who had singled and moved to second on an error.
With the 4-2 lead, Rush retired the Titans in order in the sixth, but she needed a rundown to get out of the seventh. With Decker on via a one-out walk, freshman Jae Epstein went in to run for her. Lauren Klepchick flied out to center for the second out. When Rodi's grounder was misplayed, it looked like a problem for the Rams, but Epstein rounded second and got caught in the rundown.
"They're a very impressive team," Titans coach Jennifer Campbell said of the Rams. "We were able to defend them for five innings. We can walk out of here with our heads held high."
The Rams and the Titans advance to the PIAA playoffs, which start Monday. Spring-Ford will play the third-place team from District 3, while South takes on Central, the second-place team from District 12. Central lost to St. Hubert, 14-0, in the District 12 title game.
Spring-Ford 100 003 0 - 4 7 2
Cent. Bucks South 100 010 0 - 2 8 1
WP: Mandi Rush.
LP: Devon Utterback.
2B: SF-Alexis Karkoska.