UPPER MERION — It's difficult to determine whether Upper Merion High's softball team produces more runs or more laughs.
Both came easily Thursday in a 12-0 rout of Norristown. But it takes about two seconds to figure out that along with the Vikings (8-2, 7-0) maintaining their top spot in the Suburban One League's American Conference, they're genuinely having a blast.
"They're a very loose group,' said Vikings head coach John Whitney, "but when it comes time to play the game, they all show up and they play hard.'
The key to the jocular unity, said catcher and co-captain Maddalana Ghanayem, is familiarity.
"We've all grown up together,' Ghanayem said, "so this is like a family for us.
"We started playing in the Rec leagues together. We keep that feeling on the field, and we're friends off the field, too. We all have pretty good senses of humor and we joke around a lot. It's a good time.'
There wasn't much to fret about Thursday. The first 10 Vikings hitters reached base, and all 10 scored.
Ghanayem and Riley Kontra both delivered two-run doubles in the frame while Gabby Sborlini, Micaela Ghanayem, Kandy Dezerea also knocked in runs.
Starting pitcher Olivia Sborlini hurled a couple of scoreless innings before giving way to Nicole Kowalski, who tossed three scoreless frames of her own.
Meanwhile, it looked like a Marx Brothers film festival broke out on the Vikings bench. One liners, playful putdowns and more than a little self-deprecating humor ruled supreme.
"They're a lot of fun,' Whitney said. "I give them a little rope, and I've only really had to reel them in with it a couple of times.'
It obviously helps that the Vikings are playing well. But Whitney was quick to add that when the team needs to buckle down, they've done so time and again.
"Our game against Cheltenham, we only had two hits,' Whitney said, "but (Sborlini) kept us in the game, we made all the plays and wound up winning, 2-0.
"That's the way this team is. When they need to play, they've gotten it done.'
Whitney pointed to a couple of key games coming up — the rematch with Cheltenham and a non-league date with Villa Maria, the team that knocked the Vikings out of the district playoffs a year ago — as dates circled on the Upper Merion softball calendar.
But it's impossible not to consider another trip to districts, where the Vikings are 0-3 in their last three visits.
"This year we're hoping to go further,' Ghanayem said.
"I told this group at the beginning of the year that my goals for the team were to win the league and to play two playoff games,' Whitney said. "Anything short of that will be a disappointment.
"We don't get teams like this at Upper Merion all the time. We want to make sure we take advantage of it.'
In the meantime, the Vikings will continue cracking jokes and, hopefully, laughing all the way to the top.
"This is a really good time for me,' Whitney said. "I'm really enjoying this, and I wish I could take the credit.
"But the girls deserve the credit. They're a great group.'
UPPER MERION 12, NORRISTOWN 0
Norristown 000 00 - 0
U.Merion (10)00 0x - 12
WP - Nicole Kowalski
LP - Allison Taylor
2B - Ma.Ghanayem (UM); Kontra (UM).