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Winning a title takes more than strong pitching

It's a start, but a team needs to know how to manufacture runs. Just ask some district losers.

Who says you need overpowering pitching to win big in high school softball?

While pitching has certainly dominated the sport, Central Bucks South and Spring-Ford, the teams that reached the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA championship game Thursday, showed that it isn't always dominating pitching that wins.

And they weren't the only teams. Look what happened to three other teams in the District 1 playoffs - teams that had arguably three of the most dominant pitchers in the area.

Top-seeded Downingtown West lost, 2-0, to Spring-Ford in the quarterfinals despite the work of pitcher Caroline Raymond. The 5-foot-10 Raymond, perhaps the area's most imposing pitcher, struck out nine and yielded just four hits in that game.

She finished the season with more than 250 strikeouts, but the Whippets didn't produce any offense against Rams pitcher Mandi Rush.

Owen J. Roberts' Kelly Schymanski and Garnet Valley's Courtney Spina ran into similar fates.

Central Bucks South knocked off the Wildcats, 9-4, and Pennsbury ousted the Jaguars, 2-1, in nine innings.

Against the talented Spina on May 22, Pennsbury scratched out a run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning when Kelsi Bunda, D'Anna Devine and Alyssa Shirley strung together three singles.

Freshman catcher Lauren Klepchick was the star for Central Bucks South on Tuesday in the victory over Owen J.Roberts when she tallied two hits and four RBIs off Schymanski.

Central Bucks South and Spring-Ford, teams with quality but hardly overpowering pitchers, were seeded third and eighth, respectively, in the district. Rush went the distance against the Titans, giving up eight hits and striking out just three in her team's 4-2 win.

Alexis Karkoska, who has shared pitching duties with Rush during the season, provided the Rams' offensive spark with four of her team's six hits, including a solo homer and a double that began a winning rally in the sixth inning.

No matter how overpowering a team's pitching is, it still takes runs - any way you can get them - to win games. Just ask Downingtown West, Garnet Valley and Owen J. Roberts.

No change of plans

Central Bucks South coach Jennifer Robinson has had sophomore Francesca Carullo and junior Devon Utterback share the pitching duties all season. Whoever started would go four innings, and the other would finish the game.

Robinson wasn't about to change that in Thursday's District 1 Class AAAA championship game against Spring-Ford at Plymouth Whitemarsh. Carullo worked the first four innings, giving up one run while striking out two. After retiring the side in order in the fifth, Utterback was touched for three runs in the sixth.

"Why shouldn't we go with what's been working for us?" Robinson said in answer to anyone who thought she should have left Carullo in the game. "The two of them have been rock solid all season long."

It's hard to argue with that since the two have pitched the Titans to a 20-2 record and a berth in the PIAA playoffs starting Monday against Central, the District 12 runner-up.

Interesting matchup

Monday's opening round PIAA Class AAAA game for local fans to keep an eye on is the matchup between District 12 champion St. Hubert and Pennsbury, the third-place team from District 1.

The game is set for 3 p.m. at La Salle University.

For Bambies coach Dave Schafer, the game with the Falcons (18-4) will be like old times.

"We played Pennsbury when I was coaching at Bishop Conwell and then as an assistant when I helped Sandy Hart at Conwell-Egan," said Schafer, whose team is 19-3. "I haven't seen them this year, but I know they're very good with a solid lineup from top to bottom.

Schafer said his team is looking forward to being in the PIAA playoffs for the first time. The Catholic League joined the PIAA this school year.

"First, it's an honor for the school, and we're proud to represent the Catholic League."

The Inquirer TOP 10


Team Record

Records are through Thursday. Last week's rankings are in parentheses.

1. Spring-Ford (7) 20-2

Alexis Karkoska's bat helped spark the Rams to their first PIAA District 1 Class AAAA championship.

2. Central Bucks South (4) 20-3

The Titans open the PIAA Class AAAA state playoffs Monday against Central, the District 12 runner-up.

3. Pennsbury (5) 18-4

The Falcons' late rally nipped Owen J. Roberts, 4-3, for third place in District 1 Class AAAA.

4. Owen J. Roberts (1) 19-3

Losers of two straight, the Wildcats will try to rebound in the PIAA state playoffs on Monday.

5. Downingtown West (3) 20-1

Lack of offense did the top-seeded Whippets in during a 2-0 playoff loss to Spring-Ford.

6. Garnet Valley (2) 19-2

The Jaguars lost a 2-1 nine-inning decision to Pennsbury in the district playoffs.

7. Nazareth Academy (8) 21-1

The Pandas lost a 5-1 lead but came back to beat West Chester East for the District 1 Class AAA title.

8. St. Hubert (10) 18-3

Pitcher Melissa Robinson hurled a no-hitter against Central for the District 12 Class AAAA championship.

9. Neshaminy (6) 16-3

Sophomore pitcher Sarah Mcowan had a standout year for the Redskins.

10. West Chester East (NR) 17-5

The Vikings earned a berth in the PIAA Class AAA state playoffs despite a 7-6 loss to the Pandas in the district final.

- Don Beideman