After a season-opening loss in late March, Central Bucks South softball coach Jen Robinson called a team meeting after practice.
With the players seated in a classroom connected to the school's auxiliary gymnasium, Robinson had her team propose goals for the season and draw up lists of personal goals.
The players kept their goals in the travel bags they carry to each game and practice, and Robinson kept the hand-written list of team goals inside her bag through the season.
Thanks to Fran Carrullo's 11th complete-game shutout in a 5-0 victory over Governor Mifflin at Allentown's Patriots Park on Monday night, the Titans will be carrying those goals with them to the PIAA state Class AAAA championship Friday at Shippensburg University.
The Titans will face Mount Lebanon from Allegheny County at 4 p.m. for the title.
"Our ultimate goal is to win states," said Carrullo, the junior ace who has orally committed to attend St. John's University on a softball scholarship. "Last year we lost in the semis. We knew we had to get past that."
Carrullo struck out nine batters, walked two and scattered three hits. In both the first and sixth innings, Governor Mifflin rallied to put runners on second and third only to be turned away by the hard-throwing righty.
With one out and a runner on first in the sixth, opposing pitcher Jess Epler battled Carrullo in a long at-bat, working the count full before taking a pitch that just missed the outside part of the plate.
Carrullo's face showed frustration and intensity as she walked a few feet off the mound. Then she regained her focus, getting out of the jam quickly with a strikeout and an infield pop-up.
"Usually if she walks someone she gets a little upset, but then she gets right back into it and focuses on the next batter," said sophomore catcher Lauren Klepchick, who has caught Carrullo for the last two seasons.
In the top of the third inning of a scoreless game, Robinson had outfielder Jae Epstein drop a bunt with runners on first and third. The bunt trickled down the third-base line and was fielded by Mifflin third baseman Jayme Babczak.
Babczak checked the runners and then threw to first to get Epstein, but as soon as Babczak moved toward first, pinch-runner Cait Bechta sprinted home.
Babczak then double-clutched before throwing. The ball sailed over first baseman Logan Focht's outstretched glove, allowing Shana Steigerwaltz to score as well.
"Our offense can win games, but our defense is the heart of it and we depend on that," said Robinson, whose team committed no errors while Governor Mifflin made three.
Carrullo was thrilled with her team's performance and was less focused on her own statistics.
"Our defense was great behind me all year," Carrullo said, "and [on Monday] we got our hits when we needed them."
Carrullo admitted to feeling slightly disappointed that the Titans will not meet Suburban One League rival Hatboro-Horsham, which dropped a 2-1 semifinal to Mount Lebanon, in the state final.
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