LIMERICK — Spring-Ford head coach Tim Hughes offered his players some advice after No. 13 seed Council Rock North stormed for a five-run fourth inning in the second round of the District 1-AAAA playoffs on Wednesday.
Keep smiling, have fun, and if they lost, well, that's another year until his team had to hear his voice again.
Thanks to a five-run fourth inning of their own, keyed by a bases-clearing double by Taylor Brennan, and an offense that tagged the Indians' pitching tandem of Amanda Camp and Hannah Mumber for 12 hits en route to a 10-6 victory, the Rams will be hearing Hughes' voice for at least another two days.
Fourth-seeded Spring-Ford will host fifth-seeded Pennsbury on Friday afternoon in the District 1-AAAA quarterfinals. A victory over Pennsbury will guarantee the Rams a spot in the PIAA-AAAA playoffs.
"We beat a good team here. We watched them (Council Rock North) the other day and they did a fine job against Haverford,' Hughes said. "We're happy to be moving on.'
The Rams got a significant contribution from the bottom of their lineup as No. 8 hitter Becca Faust and No. 9 Brennan knocked in five of the team's 10 runs. Brennan's three-RBI double in the fourth keyed a five-run inning that countered an Indians' six-run outburst off Spring-Ford starter Jenna Lee in the third and fourth innings. The five-spot in the fourth gave the Rams' a 9-6 lead, ample enough of a cushion for junior reliever Amber Sergas, who pitched 3.1 of one-hit ball to close out the win.
"We have 15 kids up here now and they can play ball,' Hughes said. "I'm blessed to have these good kids and they definitely subscribe to what we are trying to do and they believe in themselves, and we believe in them too.
"These kids were just relaxed and ready to go. If we get beat, let's get beat by a better team, not by ourselves.'
Council Rock North head coach Holly Woodard felt her team brought its best, but against Spring-Ford it wasn't enough.
"We're missing two starters; we played our best game today but we just fell short,' Woodard said. "They are a very good hitting team.
"The fact that my girls were able to capitalize on their opportunities and fight as hard as they did in league play just to get here, it's a great credit to their character, and a great credit to my assistant coaches.'
Nicole Rounsaville led the Indians with three hits and two runs scored, while Marisa Gergel provided some punch in the No. 2 hole, also recording three hits while knocking in two RBI.
The Rams patient approach helped early as Megan Kern worked into a hitter's count before blasting a RBI double to left-center field, scoring Cassie Alexy, before Morgan Maziarz tagged a 2-2 fastball to center to score Kern and give the team a 2-0 lead while forcing the Indians to replace Camp for Mumber in the circle. The switch proved vital as Mumber got Faust to chase a high fastball with the bases loaded to end the inning.
After the Indians scratched one across in the third, Faust got her redemption. After Jess Nattle doubled to left and Maziarz reached on a single, Faust ripped a 2-1 pitch to right-center field for a double, scoring Nattle and Maziarz, giving the Rams a 4-1 lead.
"It felt really good to help my team get a few runs so that we could get the win,' Faust said.
However, the Indians bats awoke in the fourth, quelling the Rams momentum.
Sabrina Crane tagged Lee for a two-run triple and her only hit of the game while Rounsaville, Gergel and Marketa Kruse all knocked in runs, as the team batted around the lineup, scoring five runs while chasing Lee from the game after 4.2 innings. Sergas, facing a two-on, two-out situation after hitting Mumbar on the first pitch in relief, struck out Kalli Segal to end the threat.
"When I brought them in (after giving up five runs) I said, ' Hey, listen, no surprise. We knew they were going to score runs. We just have to keep pounding away, keep pounding away.' It paid off for them today,' Hughes said.
The Rams answered emphatically in the bottom half.
Jaycie Loomis reached base to start the inning after a dropped fly ball to center before Kern launched her second double of the game to give the Rams runners in scoring position with no outs. A Nattle RBI infield single brought the deficit to 6-5 before Maziarz walked and Mumber settled down to retire the next two Rams hitters. However, Brennan was able to tag a first-pitch offering in the next at-bat to left, scoring Kern, Nattle and Maziarz, to put the Rams up to stay.
A Maziarz sacrifice fly that scored Kern in the fifth was more than enough for Sergas who quieted the Indians, allowing one hit before getting Camp to fly out to end it.
"It was the best I could do to help the team,' said Sergas, a junior right-hander. "This win feels good, but we're not done yet.'
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