One down, two to go.
In a bizarre game that saw Cassie Rickrode drive in the winning run 49 hours before pitching the final out, Delone Catholic cruised by Philadelphia Academy Charter, 6-0, advancing to the PIAA Class AA softball quarterfinals — just two games away from its first potential state title appearance in program history.
After heavy rains Monday suspended the game after one inning, play resumed Wednesday at York College, and the Squirettes eased past their Philadelphia Public League foes, who were forced to make the 230-mile round trip twice in three days.
After the Chargers' leadoff hitter reached base and advanced on a throwing error in the first inning on Monday, Rickrode induced three straight outs, stranding the runner at third. That was the closest the Chargers came to scoring all game. The situation worsened for the Chargers, who spotted the Squirettes four runs before retreating to northeast Philadelphia in the rain.
The Squirettes scored three runs on back-to-back doubles by Rickrode and MiKayla McCleaf in the bottom of the first. Then Karley Coleman's RBI single made it 4-0.
"We spotted them the four runs the other day, so we knew we were coming in having to dig out of a hole," Phladelphia Academy Charter coach Doug Robinson said. "We came in ready to do it. There was no one here who thought we couldn't."
Rickrode's RBI-double deep to left field wound up the only run support she needed to hold off the Chargers, but two more runs scored in the second when Rickrode lofted a deep fly ball to right field with two outs in the second. The Chargers' outfielder had a beat on the ball, but it slipped out of her glove, allowing two unearned runs to score. In the pitcher's circle, Rickrode struck out six and carried a no-hitter into the fourth.
Delone's 7-8-9 hitters delivered consecutive singles in third to load the bases, but Chargers pitcher Riley Walker induced a lineout and ground ball, stranding all three runners. Escaping the jam seemed to give Walker a confidence boost as she allowed just one Squirette to reach base over the last three innings.
Walker typically has a six-pitch arsenal, Robinson said, but the damp conditions on Monday made it hard for her to grip the ball.
"She's also only 16 years old and playing on a field like this can be daunting," Robinson said of his sophomore pitcher. "But once the nerves settled in, I think we played a different game."
Philadelphia Academy had runners on first and second in the fifth and sixth innings, but couldn't get a timely hit and gain momentum.
The Chargers were without their best hitter, Allison Berdel, who was in the original lineup on Monday, but couldn't make it back out to Wednesday's game.
"That's our big bat in the lineup and if we have that, then maybe the game is a little different," Robinson said. "We just couldn't get that clutch hit to move the runners."
Delone's offense hit a lull after the game resumed on Wednesday, but the big start Monday provided enough cushion.
"It wasn't our best performance but we pulled it out," Smith said. "We had another suspended game like this before and I don't know why, but we don't seem to hit in these situations. I thought there was good energy (on the way to the game), but they must have left it on the bus."
Only one other Delone softball team (2014) has come this close to tasting a state title, but the Squirettes are confident they can make a deeper postseason run than last season's squad, which fell in the quarterfinals.
Delone Catholic 6, Philadelphia Academy Charter 0
PAC, Riley Walker and Liz Marynowitz, DC, Cassie Rickrode and Lauryn King
SO-BB — PAC, Walker 1-4, DC, Rickrode 6-2; W — Rickrode; L — Walker; 2B — DC, Rickrode.