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Feeney discharges Springfield patient beyond Garnet Valley

Springfield pitcher Payton Feeney will throw a regular season game against Garnet Valley in April. Feeney carried a no-hitter in the seventh inning of the teams’ playoff game Monday, a 7-1 victory for the Cougars. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)

SPRINGFIELD — From Payton Feeney’s fastball that smoked at the plate to a grand slam by Ava Craddock and a two-run shot by Ryleigh Frye, Springfield left no doubt in a 7-1 victory over Garnet Valley Monday in the first round of the PIAA District 1 Class 6A softball playoffs.

Fifteen strikeouts by Feeney, who had a no-no entering the seventh inning, and dingers that hit so hard they chased the spectators behind the fence only tell part of the story.

Cougars coach Todd Odgers was a big fan of walks by Julia Fegley and Jules Trivwell and a fielder’s choice by Adrianna Maccurio that gave Maggie Poiesz an RBI single in the second inning.

This all set the table for Craddock’s two-out, bases-loaded shock. Losing pitcher Ashlynn Thompson had to throw strikes and the Cougars were waiting. Not to be forgotten was Frye’s single to open the five-run second inning.

“The home runs are huge, but the walks are huge too,” Odgers said. “Just be patient, let her throw strikes and if she doesn’t, we’ll take the base. It’s not just about the hits. Sometimes it’s about the walk, the sacrifices, driving in a runner with a groundout. It’s the little things that matter so much as we go through the districts.”

Craddock went 2-for-3 with a run scored for the 10th-seeded Cougars (17-3), who hit the road to visit seventh-seeded Downingtown East on Wednesday. Craddock and Frye both homered on the third pitch of their at-bats against Thompson, who was replaced by Anna Sareyka after the second round-tripper.

“The first pitch was a strike, and it was in the outside corner,” Craddock said, home run No. 6 for her this season. “That is not my position. It was a high pitched sound inside, and I waited for it. When she threw it in, it was amazing.

The Jaguars weren’t done yet, but they left a tough second inning with plenty of “what if” questions.

“I think we fell behind a little bit there with the base runners getting going,” Jaguars coach Allie Alkins said. “We had two outs when the grand slam came. If we had caught some of those foul ball pop-ups that should have been outs in that inning, we wouldn’t even be in that situation.”

The Cougars put the game away in the third on Frye’s two-run shot, her fourth of the season.

“I got out of the box after fouling a few throws and then went back into the box,” Frye said. “I actually didn’t think we would break up. Then I saw all the people moving aside and I thought, ‘Yes!’

Feeney provided the rest of the entertainment for the fans counting her strikeouts. She gave up two hits, a leadoff single in the seventh inning to Jenna Fulmer and an RBI double to Rylee Bailey. Those seniors played their last game for the Jaguars (11-10).

“This was a team that everyone thought wouldn’t even make the playoffs,” Alkins said. “So the progress and growth they’ve made to get to this point is something I’m so pleased with. I’m glad we killed that no-hitter at the end of the game just to build that confidence back up. They just didn’t die and roll there. It was good to see the fight in them. For the underclassmen: great experience and looking forward to next season. Difficult for the seniors.”

The Cougars, on the other hand, are in sync. A convincing win in the first round should boost their confidence.

“We had a tough game on Wednesday, but we played great, especially with a young team,” Craddock said. “There are only three seniors and one or two juniors. We are a young team.”

“They’ve been playing so well as a team all year,” Odgers said. “I was talking to them just after the game about how impressive it is, how much they support each other and how they come to training every day to work on everything. They’re always about getting better. In games they go from the first throw to the last. And they just go after it. It’s fun to coach this team because of their hard work. I am sure they will give their best every day.”