TOWAMENCIN — The North Penn softball team was humming right along.
Jackie Bilotti had retired 14 batters in a row, the offense added to the lead in the sixth, and the Maidens were just three outs away from locking down a 3-0 win over rival Central Bucks South.
But then, everything changed.
Hope Darreff led off the seventh by smacking a double to the gap in left center — the first of six hits the Titans would have in their last at-bat — and a huge rally by the visitors culminated in a 5-3 victory over the Maidens in the season opener for both squads.
"We just didn't play mentally strong. We made some mistakes in that last inning that we don't normally make,' North Penn coach Rick Torresani said. "But what it comes down to is we didn't hit today. And we had been hitting the ball in our two scrimmages and in practice.'
After Taylor Risich singled in Darreff to bring the Titans within 3-1 in this Suburban One League Continental Conference battle, Maddie Bieber singled to right to load the bases with one out.
Bilotti had Kate McNesby down 0-2, but then the freshman pinch hitter belted a double to left center, driving in two runs to even the score at three apiece.
Jocelyn Flores' sacrifice fly scored Bieber on a close play at the plate, pushing South ahead for the first time, 4-3. Lauren McCarthy's infield single yielded another run, giving the Titans a 5-3 cushion to take into the bottom of the seventh.
With plenty of momentum behind her, South starter Maddie Decker went out and retired NP in just four batters to finish off the comeback.
"North Penn's very good, and I thought this game would be a good experience for the girls,' said South coach Dan Hayes, who is starting five freshmen this season. "I told the girls if things did not go well early, we have to hang in there, and they kept their heads up and battled back real nice.'
Just about everything was going the Maidens' way early.
Back-to-back hits by Hannah Uhler and Jovanna Alfonsi put North Penn in front 1-0 in the second, and then Becky Christoffers' towering double to deep left plated another run for a 2-0 lead in the third.
Bilotti retired the Titans in order in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth, and then NP pushed its lead to 3-0 in the bottom half when Vicky Tumasz belted an RBI double to left.
The lead seemed safe, but some base-running errors throughout the game along with some costly defensive mistakes in the seventh prevented NP from starting the season 1-0.
The Maidens, who have had to scramble their lineup a bit due to the injury to star center fielder Erin Maher (foot), will try to battle back with a non-league home contest Saturday at 11 a.m. against Crestwood.
"We were maybe too anxious,' Torresani said of the game. "We just did not play good, fundamental softball.'
Central Bucks South 5, North Penn 3
Central Bucks South 000 000 5 — 5 8 0
North Penn 011 001 0 — 3 9 0
WP: Maddie Decker 7IP, 3R, 3ER, 9H, 1K, 1 BB.
LP: Jackie Bilotti 7IP, 8H, 5R, 5ER, 5K, 0 BB.
2B: Hope Darreff (CBS), Kate McNesby (CBS), Becky Christoffers (NP), Vicky Tumasz (NP), Lauren Ostopowicz (NP).
Multiple Hits: CBS-Taylor Risich 2-for-3, R, RBI; NP-Bilotti 2-for-3, R (pinch runner Lauren Schwartz); Jovanna Alfonsi 2-for-3, RBI.
Follow Kev Hunter on Twitter @khunter10.