When you take a long look at the Central Bucks East and Pennridge softball teams, you will see that not a whole lot separates the two.

Both were teams on the rise a season ago, playing in the same division as defending state champion Hatboro-Horsham and eventual state champion Central Bucks South.

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No longer upstarts, the Rams and Patriots have been contenders for a league title all year, duking it out with the Hatters and Titans.

On Tuesday, the difference between the Suburban One Continental foes was a two-out, fourth-inning triple by Carla Ruscio that gave the host Patriots a 3-2 victory over Pennridge.

"It was a very important game for us," Ruscio said. "We needed to come out big with the win, and that's what we did."

On senior day and her 18th birthday, no less, Ruscio stepped up to the plate in the fourth, with East (14-4 overall, 10-4 conference) down by a run.

She hit the ball hard to right field, and the line drive flew by the Pennridge outfielder, scoring Caroline Schoenewald and Brady Tillotson.

The Patriots, ranked third in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, used three pitchers against the fifth-ranked Rams (12-7, 8-6).

Theresa Haug got the start and threw two hitless innings before Jayme Ziegler went in to work the third and fourth innings. Kayla Ventura entered in the fifth and pitched the final three innings for a save.

Paige DeCew took the loss.

"We needed to get Paige back into a groove, which I think we accomplished today," Pennridge coach Paul Koehler said. "We needed to get a couple of our hitters swinging the bat, which I believe we accomplished today.

"Some good things happened to us, even in a 3-2 loss."

The PIAA District 1 Class AAAA playoff seeding meeting will be held Thursday night, with the first round scheduled to begin Monday.

"Next week is a whole different ball game," Ruscio said. "We are just going to fight until the end. . . . That's our game plan."

The Patriots will finish the regular season third in the division, and the Rams will finish fourth.

Pennridge 002 000 0 - 2 6 0

Central Bucks East 100 200 x - 3 6 1

WP: Jayme Ziegler. LP: Paige DeCew. Sv: Kayla Ventura. 2B: P-Haley Taylor. 3B: CBE-Julia Schoenewald, Carla Ruscio.

Contact Kate Harman at rallysports@phillynews.com.