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Sports Article
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Sullivan’s Hit Lifts Upper Perkiomen
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Jenna Sullivan's fourth hit Monday triggered a reaction of elation. Her usually stoic Upper Perkiomen teammates streamed out of the first base dugout and surrounded

Jenne Sullivan, left, and Dani Freer celebrate

Sullivan's game-winning hit Monday afternoon.

her in celebration. Pitcher Lily Dibble felt relieved. The one-out single in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted the Indians to a 10-9 victory over Phoenixville in the opening round of the District One Class 5A softball playoffs.

            Upper Perkiomen's third victory over a Pioneer Athletic Conference opponent and the hard fought nature of the competition elicited the unusual response, according head coach Dean Sullivan.

            "Beating one team three times in the same season is never easy," he said.

            Alexa Banner finished with two hits and scored two-runs for the No. 4 seeded Indians (15-6), who overcame a four-run deficit in the fifth inning, but need an extra inning to advance to Wednesday's second round home game against Upper Dublin. Dani Freer delivered two hits and scored twice.

            Jenna Sullivan's walkoff single off Phantoms pitcher Kendall Brown – down the third base line – plated Banner, who singled and stole second, to snap a 9-9 tie.

            Sullivan said she knew that Brown, a former travel teammate would  attempt to get her out by pitching inside. The Upper Perkiomen ninth grader successfully attacked multiple first-pitch strikes. 

            Dibble, who retired the side in the top of the eighth inning, earned the mound victory despite permitting seven earned runs on 14 hits. Leading 9-7 in the top of the seventh, the sophomore surrendered two runs on four consecutive hits to open the inning. However she retired the next three hitters, stranding two runners in scoring position with an effective changeup. During a mound visit in the seventh, Dean Sullivan instructed his pitcher to relax.

            "Lily was in a bad spot," the coach said. "I told her that we weren't going to make any pitching changes, so all she had to do was throw strikes so we could make the plays behind her."

            Even after the No. 14 seeded Phantoms (9-12) posted three runs in fourth inning and one more in the fifth to go ahead 7-3, Dean Sullivan remained positive. "I told the girls to keep smiling," he said. "Good things are going to happen."

            It did for the Indians in the bottom of the fifth, who scored four unearned runs on two hits and three Phoenixville errors. Three runs scored on Kylene Gooch's infield hit and throwing error by second baseman Katherine Ruteledge. Kelsey Bernhart came all the way around from first place, nearly getting caught in a run down between third base and home plate. Bernhart's dive at the plate just beat the tag of catcher Ailaina Woods. They scored two more runs in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by Morgan Lindsay and Freer's triple to left center.

            In the conference playoffs, Upper Perkiomen suffered a 6-1 opening round loss to Methacton at Spring-Ford High School. Caroline Pellicano kept the hitters off balance with an effective changeup, despite a hint from Sullivan. Pellicano registered eight strikeouts and scattered five hits to post the victory.

            "Pellicano is an excellent pitcher," Sullivan said. "We needed to perfect game to win, and that didn't happen. Let's say the better team won."

            Dani Freer and Jenna Sullivan finished with two hits for the Indians. Sullivan scored the team's only run in the sixth inning, scoring from first base on a long single to right field by Morgan Lindsay.

            During the second inning, Dean Sullivan detected that Pellicano was throwing the changeup in 0-1 counts. The tip forced Freer, who usually only swings at fastballs, to look for the changeup.

            "The pitch caught us off guard," said Freer, who called it the best changeup the team has faced all year.

            Upper Perkiomen, seeded No. 2, threatened in the second, third and fourth innings but could not score. The team squandered Freer's leadoff double in the second. With two outs in the third inning, Banner and Jenna Sullivan delivered consecutive hits. However, Sullivan was thrown out attempting to stretch her single into a double. In the fourth, Freer lined a one-out single to center, but did not advance.

            Meanwhile, Methacton, the No. 3 seed, took a 1-0 lead in the first inning off Dibble on Caraline Newmann's two-out double. The team added three more runs in the fifth inning on five hits. Kiki Hamilton and Newmann each delivered RBI singles. However, Jenna Sullivan threw out a runner at the plate on a fly ball to right field to end the inning.

            Upper Perkiomen's defense helped keep the Warriors offense at bay. Sullivan made a sliding catch in right during the first inning. Bernhart turned a double play on a ground ball in the third inning. A two-run rally in the seventh inning, highlighted by Taylor Angelillis' leadoff home run, capped the scoring.

            Only three members of Dean Sullivan's team had previous conference playoff experience. Last year's Final Four was cancelled due to heavy rain.

            "I was more excited than nervous," said Freer, one three ninth graders in the Indians starting lineup.

            After the game, the coach told the players he expects Upper Perkiomen to become a regular participant in the playoffs. "We're very young," Dean Sullivan said, adding that his team has only two seniors.

            Freer called the experience a valuable "taste" of playing under a bight spotlight. She agreed with Sullivan's expectations for success. "We're real young, and we're going to keep getting better," the shortstop said.






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