UNIVERSITY PARK — Brandywine Heights coach Don Roach turned to the history books to put his softball team’s historic victory into perspective.
“How many times did Abraham Lincoln fail?,” he responded when asked how it felt to finally win the PIAA Class AA softball title in his fifth attempt.
In the Lady Bullets’ previous four appearances in the championship game, they were beaten by Bald Eagle Area and Philipsburg-Osceola twice each.
This time, there was no District 6 team in the other dugout and the Lady Bullets went home with a 1-0 win over WPIAL champion Riverside.
“These girls understand the history but they didn’t think about the past,” Roach said. “They wanted to make their own history. They won this one for themselves”
And they won it by piecing together a pair of bloop singles to right field around an error to score the first run in the PIAA playoffs against Riverside pitcher Kirsten Wilson in the fourth inning.
With two outs, Amanda Hess flared a single to right and Dana Jalowy got aboard on an error on first baseman Natalie Pritts, putting runners on the corners. Jessica Musser then blooped a ball that landed right on the foul line allowing Hess to score. Wilson, who had
13 strikeouts, fanned Tiffany Diehl to end the inning.
Pitcher Megan Olsen then retired Riverside in order in the sixth and seventh innings to seal the victory. Olsen finished with a four-hitter, one walk and four strikeouts.
Riverside had three scoring opportunities and was unable to capitalize, twice stranding runners at third base.
“We were able to get runners on but we couldn’t get them in” said Riverside coach Pam McCarty. “We were up against a nice team. But our batting wasn’t up to par. Their pitcher held us down. She kept us off-stride and that’s what it takes to win championship games.
“We’ve come here four times and come in second. It just wasn’t in the cards for us.’’
“This team broke the door down,’’ he said. “But all of those other teams showed these girls how to get here, to do what they did.”
Roach said he got a good feeling after Mansfield popped up to Olsen with two outs in the sixth. The ball popped out of Olsen’s glove but second baseman Sam Sweigart was right there to catch the ball for the third out.
“I knew there was something special going on, on that popup to Megan,” he said. “We talked about that. In fact, we practice that situation where you need two or three girls on a ball. Sometimes on a ball like that you get a goofy spin.”
Roach said the key to breaking through against Wilson, who gave up five hits after allowing only one through the PIAA playoffs, was discipline.
“We realized what the strike zone was, and if the ball didn’t go there we didn’t go after it,’’ he said. “But she still got us a bunch of times. The key was our kids were able to find the ball in the zone and toward the end we started to lay off her rise ball, which is her out-pitch.
“The thing is, we’ve come here before with a dominant pitcher. This time we were able to turn the tables.”