**Note: This article originally published on GameTimePA.com**
UPPER MORELAND — More often than not one or two plays makes the difference between winning and losing a softball game that ends 4-2. Thursday afternoon, Cheltenham was able to make those plays go their way in the Panthers’ Suburban One League American Conference victory over Upper Moreland.
Unfortunately for the Golden Bears they made three errors on the day, two of which led to three of Cheltenham’s four runs. The big blow was a dropped fly ball with two outs in the fifth that plated two runs to make the score 3-0.
“(Cheltenham) didn’t make many mistakes today,’ Upper Moreland head coach Scott Ludlow said. “We weren’t as clean as we would have liked to have been. Nothing big…ball to left field that counted two runs…she was on it, she was tracking it good, it just didn’t end up in her glove.’
The other aspect of the game the Bears struggled with was hitting with runners in scoring position. Upper Moreland stranded five girls at second or third on the day, including at least one in innings two through six.
“Two-out hitting and leaving runners on base when you have a chance of getting runners in,’ Ludlow said. “When you’re talking about a softball game that’s 4-2, it’s really the name of the game. (Cheltenham) got a two-out hit that scored two, we left five.’
Stringing together a rally of any kind proved to be tough all day against Cheltenham’s pitcher Grace DeRosa. She scattered seven hits over her seven innings pitched, giving up both the Upper Moreland runs in the sixth. The senior also struck out six while walking three. She added a double and scored a run at the plate.
“I’ve been watching Gracie be a standout for three years,’ Cheltenham head coach Ron Perlstein said. “This is, for me, a little bitter sweet and sad because she’s in the twilight of her career. I always give her a big hand when she comes off the mound, I take a look at her gunfighter eyes and I see where she is and she’s always on top. She was today again.’
Despite being down 4-0 in the sixth and up against a tough pitcher, Upper Moreland found a way to claw themselves back into the game thanks to RBI singles from Nicole Drummond and Alexa Wister. In all, the Golden Bears collected three hits and had six different hitters reach base in what proved to be their most productive inning.
“I’m proud of the way we battled,’ Ludlow said. “We got down 4-0, and that’s a really good pitcher and a really good team, and we could have kind of packed in the tents. We didn’t. We kept hitting, we kept fighting, we gave ourselves an opportunity in the sixth and hit a couple balls hard in the seventh too. I’m proud of the way we finished, that’s kind of the way the game is supposed to be played.’
In the seventh inning the Bears had their big guns coming to the plate in Allie Miller and cleanup hitter Jenn Freeman. They both hit the ball hard, but again Cheltenham made the necessary plays, with a shoestring catch in right and a running catch in center to end any threat before it could get started.
Amber O’Connor toed the rubber for Upper Moreland and pitched well, giving up seven hits in six innings while walking one and striking out two. The lone earned run came in first inning on an RBI single by Becca Simms. O’Connor settled in from there.
“The last probably two weeks she’s really been solid,’ Ludlow said “We’ve made some mistakes behind her… She’s not going to blow anybody away out there but that’s not what we’re asking her to do. She’s around the plate…we just have to play a little cleaner behind her…Again, not big mistakes but other teams have capitalized on them and that’s the name of softball.’
In a bizarre development O’Connor’s leg cramped while warming up to pitch the seventh, but Brianna Byard was able to come in and shut Cheltenham down to give the Bears a chance in the bottom.
Upper Moreland hopes to bounce back Friday against Methacton. The Golden Bears are in the midst of 13 games in 14 school days; something coach Ludlow is looking to take positives from.
“We knew mentally we were ready and had the right approach, we just have to clean it up a bit. Next week we have four more in four days including a double-header Monday. Hopefully we do enough to get ourselves in the playoffs and have a couple games afterwards.’
Cheltenham 4, Upper Moreland 2
Cheltenham 100 021 0 — 4 7 1
Upper Moreland 000 002 0 — 2 7 3
WP: Grace DeRosa 7 IP 7 H 2 R 2 ER 3 BB 6 SO.
LP: Amber O’Connor 6 IP 7 H 4 R 1 ER 1 BB 2 SO.
2B: C-DeRosa. SB: C-Gianelle, Mo., Simms. CS: C-Simms (2nd base, by O’Connor/Tice).
Cheltenham: Gianelle, Mo. 1-4, 2 R; Simms 1-3, RBI; Blair-Kraybill 1-4, R; DeRosa 1-3, R.
Upper Moreland: Wister 2-4, RBI; Drummond 1-3, RBI; O’Connor 0-2, BB, R; Brown 1-3, R.