The host Rams and Ridley battled it out in a gut-wrenching 15-inning marathon in the second round of the District 1-AAA playoffs with Spring-Ford winning, 4-3.

The Green Raiders scored three runs on five hits and an error in the first inning. However, that ended the scoring for the Central League runners-up.

Spring-Ford (19-3) knotted the score with a run in the first and two in the fourth to leave the score at 3-3 at the end of regulation time.

Throughout the day, pitching and defense ruled in a marvelous confrontation. Neither side deserved to return home with a loser tag, but that is the way it goes in district playoffs and single-elimination tournaments.

Spring-Ford pitcher Heather Rush and Ridley's Steph Croce hooked up in a classic for the ages. Fittingly, Rush also delivered the game-winning hit with two outs in the bottom of the 15th inning on a fly ball to short right field that was nearly caught.

Julia Avans reached base on a fielder's choice with two out in the 15th. Then leadoff batter Erin McHugh legged out a bunt single to put runners at first and second base. Rush wrapped it up with her hit on the next pitch from Croce.

"That was very exciting," said Rush. "I have never been in a game that went 15 innings. I gave it my all. The defense was behind me. They backed me up. They hit the ball and we made the plays. Everyone pumped everybody up."

The Rams turned four double plays in ousting the Green Raiders (18-4).

Spring-Ford advanced to Friday's quarterfinal game on the road against third-seeded Hatboro-Horsham, a 4-0 victor over Methacton.

Rush pitched 15 innings in which she scattered nine hits with two earned runs, six strikeouts and no walks. She issued 157 pitches.

Croce matched her with her own lofty numbers. She pitched 14 2/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and three earned runs with eight strikeouts and one walk. Croce uncorked 185 pitches.

Rush made sure to credit her teammates.

"Julia and Erin got on, and I did what I had to do," Rush said.

Spring-Ford shortstop Taryn Carmody and Ridley counterpart Eve Massa sparkled on the defensive side of the ledger.

"We had a rocky first inning," Rush said. "We realized what we did wrong and fixed them up. We corrected our mistakes. Our defense made plays. Everyone played with so much heart."

Both Spring-Ford coach Tim Hughes and Ridley's Chris Bush applauded the play on both sides in a game that lasted 2 hours and 37 minutes.

"We kicked the ball around at the start of the game," Hughes said. "We gave them at least one or two runs. We pennied away. Once it got past the seventh inning, I thought it would go 20 innings.

"Both pitchers were getting stronger. The defense relaxed. Nobody pressed. Both teams made great plays."

McHugh and Rush each recorded three of the Rams' hits. S-F catcher Susan Lebow poked a clutch two-run single to center field to tie the game in the fourth. Michelle Reffner doubled and Kristi Grajewski singled to start the inning.

Massa and Kristen Cericola each had two hits, including doubles, for Ridley.

"It was an incredible game to be a part of," Bush said. "Even the way we lost. The girl giving 100 percent on it. I am really, really proud of the girls and the season we had. It's a shame it had to end."

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