ROYERSFORD - Rachel Connelly, Spring-Ford’s senior second baseman, had not had much luck at the plate, especially during the second half of the softball season.
Connelly had gone hitless in nine games heading into Thursday’s Pioneer Athletic Conference championship game against Boyertown at Spring-Ford’s Ram Park.
But in the bottom of the fourth inning, Connelly unloaded a hit that she and the rest of Ram nation will remember for a lifetime.
Connelly crushed a two-out, two-run triple to the right-center field gap on a full count to account for all of the scoring in Spring-Ford’s 2-0 victory over the Bears.
The two runs on two hits in the fourth inning and some strong defense gave winning pitcher Haleigh Williams all of the support she needed to toss a four-hit shutout with six strikeouts and no walks.
The second-seeded Rams won over the fourth-seeded Bears, who had upset top-seeded Owen J. Roberts in the semifinal round. Spring-Ford then defeated Interboro, 3-2, in the opening round of the District 1-AAAA playoffs Monday, May 20, in Royersford.
The Rams (18-4), who are the ninth seed, advanced to Wednesday’s second-round game at No. 8 seed Downingtown East. Haleigh Williams pitched six innings for the victory with Jenna Lee hurling the seventh for the save. Williams gave up eight hits and two runs (one earned) with eight strikeouts and one walk. Lee allowed one hit and no runs with one strikeout and no walks.
Morgan Newton finished 3-for-3 with a double and RBI. Bri Kofer went 2-for-2 with a double and RBI. Jess Nattle also had one hit, one RBI and one run scored.
“In my first at-bat I was kind of nervous, but we’ve been practicing a lot,” said Connelly, who played junior varsity ball a year ago. “In the beginning I was nervous because my first at-bat was kind of iffy. I had to calm my nerves.”
Connelly said the offering from Boyertown pitcher Emily Allen came in about waist high in the strike zone, a little up.
“It felt good off the bat,” said Connelly.
Jess Nattle (2-for-3) started the frame for Spring-Ford with a one-out double to left field and she took third on a passed ball. Morgan Newton drew a four-pitch walk and then stole second base to put runners at second and third. With two down, Connelly stepped to the plate and delivered her clutch hit.
Senior left fielder Bri Kofer and junior third baseman Cassie Alexy were also 2-for-3 for the Rams. Alexy also had a noteworth game on defense at third base by registering three assists and four putouts.
“We just practice really hard,” said Connelly. “Our practices everyone is really in it. Even when we are off track some girls get us ready to go and serious for games. We had to get refocused and we knew what we’re doing.”
Williams talked about her pitching assignment.
“My job for this team is to hit the spots and let the players get the outs and do their job,” said Williams.
In their last game against Boyertown during the regular season, the Rams committed an astounding 11 errors. However, in the title game, S-F made just one miscue.
“We trust in our defense,” said Williams. “We have all been working really hard.”
Williams was a junior varsity player as a freshman when the Rams last won the PAC-10 title back in 2010.
“We set high standards for ourselves,” said Williams. “The hard work at practices pays off. We have confidence.”
Rams coach Tim Hughes was proud of the way his forces came through in the playoffs with victories over Methacton and Boyertown in the Final Four setup.
“We beat two good, well-coached teams,” said Hughes.”We tightened up. The girls responded well, and our talent showed.”
Hughes was also elated for a player like Connelly.
“She hasn’t hit for us in a while,” said Hughes. “She is a great kid. She is a good senior with Haleigh (Williams) and Bri Kofer. It was something we throught. We thought Rachel could hit this girl. We had confidence in her. After her first at-bat (strikeout), I talked to her, and then she did very well. She relaxed. But I have 15 kids on the bench who are like that.”
Brandi Hankins, Boyertown’s first-year head coach, discussed a PAC-10 game and season that came up just shy for her Bears (13-7).
“Offensively, they weren’t in it,” said Hankins. “They weren’t ready to go. We didn’t generate any hits. All we had to do was put the ball in play and let them work and make errors. You can’t win ballgames when you can’t score runs.
“It’s disappointing. But from the beginning of the season, the girls have improved tremendously. We’ve had injuries and players playing out of position. We also had the transition to a first-year coaching staff, but we all pulled together. They made it this far and I couldn’t be prouder of them. We grew as a team.”
Boyertown right fielder Elie Goida had two hits, and Melissa Bond and Alexis Jacquot had the other hits for the Bears.
Allen, a junior, pitched 4 2/3 innings and gave up six hits and two earned runs with four strikeouts and two walks. Mandy Kalil finished up in relief with one hit allowed.
Center fielder Jacquot made a sensational diving catch in left-center field to rob Newton of a hit to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning. ... Boyertown athletic director Madison Morton, who is also the PAC-10 softball liaison, presented the league championship plaque to the Rams following the contest.