Defeat spawned a revelation at the end of last season — the 2013 version of Holy Redeemer softball was going to be impressive.
The District 2 champion Royals haven’t disappointed thus far as they are just one win away from playing for the PIAA Class 2A state championship. The road hits perhaps its biggest speed bump today as Redeemer (18-0) plays perennial District 3 power Brandywine Heights (25-2) at 6 p.m. at Patriots Park in Allentown.
The winner advances to the state title game at 10 a.m. at Penn State. It will play the winner of today’s game between D7 champion Riverside and D6 champion Phillipsburg Osceola. Those teams play at 4 p.m. at Brockway High School.
Rewind to last year. Redeemer finished 4-11 in the tough Division 1 of the Wyoming Valley Conference. The Royals weren’t given much of a chance to make waves in the District 2 Class 3A tournament, yet bumped off Berwick and then Tunkhannock. They fell 10-1 to eventual champ and powerhouse Valley View in the semifinals, but the loss brought hope.
“I don’t want to sound conceded,” Redeemer coach Mark Senchak said, “but I knew this team could be this team. Especially after how we battled with Valley View last year in 3A. As the season went along, I became more and more confident we had a legit shot at going to the state semifinals.”
Two things helped build confidence. First, Redeemer dropped down to Class 2A. That brought about a move from WVC Division 1 to WVC Division 3, where the competition was less fierce. The Royals sawed through every opponent with relative ease.
The intensity picked up in the D2 title game where Redeemer outlasted Holy Cross 4-3 in eight innings. It cranked up a notch in a 1-0 eight-inning victory over D4 champion Warrior Run, the state runner-up last year, in the first round of the state playoffs. It was dialed back a bit but there nonetheless when the Royals defeated D12 champion Conwell-Egan Catholic 5-3.
“We just try to stay relaxed and stay calm and play our game like we’ve been playing since the beginning of the season,” senior center fielder Biz Eaton said.
That game has three parts. Pitcher Kaya Swanek has been outstanding in the circle. So has the defense behind her. And the hitting runs right through the lineup. Eaton, the No. 8 hitter, was 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored versus Conwell-Egan. No. 9 hitter Julie Kosik was 2-for-3 with a run scored and a triple. The top of the order did its job against Holy Cross and Warrior Run.
Brandywine Heights, though, brings in a more impressive resume than any postseason opponent. The Bullets have won state championships in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011. After losing 10-5 to Minersville to opener their season, they’ve lost just one more time.
During the run, the pitching of Megan Olsen has produced 12 shutouts. The latest came at Patriots Park prior to Redeemer’s victory. Olsen threw a three-hitter as Brandywine Heights blanked D11 champion Pen Argyl 6-0. The bats started working early as Taylor Brintzenhoff hit a two-run homer in the first. Lauren Olsen had an RBI double and Sam Sweigert added an RBI single, both in the second inning, and the rout was on.
Through five postseason games, Brandywine Heights have outscored its opponents 36-3. The Bullets, like Redeemer, had a close call in the D11 playoffs as the defeated Schuylkill Valley 1-0.