BOYERTOWN — See ball. Smash ball.
It’s been that kind of a spring for Penn Manor’s softball team, which spent the season bombing homers and putting up crooked numbers on scoreboards all around the area.
Thursday, the Comets’ bats were silenced.
Fireballer Mady Volpe pitched a two-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts, and North Penn blanked Penn Manor 4-0 in a PIAA Class 6A quarterfinal at Boyertown High School.
There were no section, league or district titles for the Comets, but they went deeper in the postseason than any other Class 6A team in the L-L League.
“We didn’t end up with any hardware,” Penn Manor coach Dave Stokes said, “but this has been one of the better groups we’ve had. I’m really proud of them. Would we have liked to advance? Yes. But you have to give credit to their starting pitcher. She was dominant. We couldn’t get on top of the ball.”
Volpe, a Coastal Carolina recruit, came into the game with a minuscule 0.80 ERA. And it went down after she allowed just two hits; Kaelin Gable looped a lead-off single to left to open the bottom of the second, and Tori Hook blooped a single to left with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
With Kira Green running for Hook, Penn Manor brought up slugger Emily Riggs, who represented the tying run as North Penn was protecting a 2-0 lead.
But Volpe, who changed speeds to go along with a devastating fastball, got Riggs to ground out to second to get out of that pickle.
North Penn (24-2) tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh to break it open, and Volpe struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh to end it, as Penn Manor, the third seed out of District 3, finished up 21-6.
The Comets, back in the state playoffs for the fourth year in a row, had two on in the bottom first when Sophia Rineer reached on an error and Riggs walked. But Volpe pitched out of that jam. She was rarely in trouble the rest of the game; Penn Manor — which upended previously unbeaten WPIAL champ Bethel Park in the first round — got those singles from Gable and Hook, but that was that.
In one dominating clip, Volpe piled up nine strikeouts in 11 batters. She painted the outside corner throughout, and mixed in some tantalizing changeups to keep Penn Manor’s hitters off balance.
North Penn, the fifth seed out of District 1, grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of third when Rachel Lowry and Julia Shearer scratched out back-to-back singles to open the frame off Penn Manor righty Bella Peters. After a sac bunt and a strikeout, Gianna Cimino slammed a two-run double to the gap in left-center, plating Lowry and Shearer.
That’s all the Knights would lead.
Peters scattered 12 hits and pitched out of a lot of sticky situations. She walked two and had a strikeout before Riggs took over in the circle with two outs in the seventh.
Riggs allowed a hit, but Penn Manor left fielder Kylie Goss gunned down a runner at the plate to get the Comets out of the seventh.
“Special group,” Stokes said. “We have seven or eight kids who have played together since they were 10 years old. They all showed up early. They all enjoyed practice. They all got mad when practice was over. They’re a great group of kids who really enjoy each other.”