By BILL RUDICK
EAST WHITELAND — All season long, the Avon Grove softball team has seen its share of clutch plays made in key situations by all sorts of different players. When thrust into the limelight, virtually all of the roster has come through with a timely hit or clutch defensive play.
On Wednesday afternoon, it was Courtney Gall's turn. With one out in the fifth inning, Gall ripped a double to the fence in centerfield to knock in Maggie Balint and Alyssa Herion, spelling the difference in Avon Grove's 3-1 victory over third-seeded Souderton in the District 1 Class AAAA semifinals at Great Valley High School. Second-seeded Avon Grove will play in its first district final in program history Thursday, squaring off against ninth-seeded North Penn, a 3-1 winner over No. 4 Spring-Ford, at a site and time to be determined.
"I knew I could make contact because I made pretty good contact my previous time up,' said Gall of her double. "With runners on base, I was just looking to hit a line drive somewhere to get runs in. It feels amazing to know that it helped put us in finals.'
According to coach Julie Hatfield, Gall was definitely due.
"Courtney has been pecking away for the latter part of the season,' said Hatfield. "It was only a matter of time before she came through with that timely hit.'
A two-run lead was more than enough for Balint to get the win. The sophomore hurler spun a one-hitter, striking out 10, while walking three. In a testament to how dominant Balint has been, the 10 Ks marked a season low. But the Red Devils' defense proved itself up to the task of notching all the outs they'd need.
"I might have only seen six balls all year because of Maggie's pitching,' said centerfielder Gall, who made a nice running grab in the fourth. "But it just forces you to always stay in the game, because you have to be ready when the ball does come your way.'
The Red Devils pride themselves on being able to make the plays on defense. And they have all year.
"Everyone knows their position and knows where they are supposed to be going with a throw, and we communicate well,' said shortstop Logan Needham, who knocked in Taylor Volko with for the first run of the game on an RBI groundout in the fourth.
"It can be hard on the defense when you might not see a ball for two games, then suddenly have one ripped right at you,' said Hatfield. "Defensively, we don't always have a chance to shine because we have a great pitcher as the backbone of the defense. But time and again, we see that when it comes time, we can make the plays.'
Souderton's lone run came in the fifth. Morgan Yoder led off the inning with the Indians' lone hit of the game -- a single to left. She took second as the ball got away. Yoder was sacrificed to third and scored as Angie Carter reached on a throwing error."It's sad we didn't get it done today,' said Souderton coach Steph Romo. "I think we could have had some better at bats, but more so, I think we let down offensively.Souderton will face Spring-Ford in the third-place consolation game.
Balint and Herion delivered back-to-back singles with one out before Gall delivered her heroics.
The Red Devils are now just one win away from a district championship.
"The girls have earned it,' said Hatfield. "It's a group of fighters. We just said in the circle after the game that we've hit every goal we've to this point. Hopefully they see what they've done, and keep setting goals, one game at a time, and that they can do anything if they set their hearts mind to it.'
Avon Grove 3, Souderton 1SOUD ab r h bi AGROVE ab r h biSowers p 2 0 0 0 Needham ss 3 0 1 1
P. Shelly 3b 1 0 0 0 Beck 1b 3 0 0 0
Brush cf 3 0 0 0 Balint p 3 1 1 0
Delaney 1b 3 0 0 0 Herion c 3 1 1 0
D. Shelly lf 3 0 0 0 Gall cf 3 0 1 2
Wiley ss 3 0 0 0 Porter 3b 2 0 0 0
Yoder c 3 1 1 0 VanSciver 1b 0 0 0 0
Bostwick 2b 0 0 0 0 Volko rf 1 1 0 0
Carty rf 1 0 1 1 Daly 2b 2 0 0 0
Gargiulo lf 1 0 0 0
Coppack 2b 0 0 0 0Totals 19 1 1 1 Totals 22 3 4 3
Souderton 000 100 0-- 1
Avon Grove 000 120 x-- 32B - Gall.
IP H R BB SO
SoudertonSowers, L 6 4 3 1 2Avon Grove
Balint, W 7 1 1 3 10