Devon Strafford Berwyn Paoli 12u Softball Proves Elite in Post-S
Devon Strafford Berwyn Paoli 12u Softball Proves Elite in Post-Season Tournament Run
INDIANA, PA – There are 102 Little League organizations in the Commonwealth. As of Sunday afternoon, only three had teams remaining in the Pennsylvania 12u softball championships. One of those three was our own.
After capturing district and section titles in the past few weeks, the 12u Little League softball squad, a team of rising 7th and 8th graders mostly from Valley Forge and T/E middle schools made their way to Indiana, PA to compete for the state championship. “Every single one of these young ladies contributed to these wins,” observed head coach Christine Amoroso. “There was no other team with the depth we had.”
Devon Strafford Little League (DSLL) and Berwyn Paoli Area Little League (BPALL), neighboring baseball organizations, share both a long history in the community and a common school district. A few years ago, facing dwindling interest in girls softball, prescient leaders from both leagues combined softball programs resulting in Devon Strafford Berwyn Paoli (DSBP) softball and, in doing so, reinvigorated opportunities for young female athletes in the area. Today, the two leagues collaborate closely to provide facilities and administrative support to DSBP.
Another result of the combination has been success on the diamond. The post-season tournament teams are selected from players who play on DSBP recreational teams in April through June and distinguish themselves throughout the season and in a post-season tryout. The tournament team is essentially a team of All-Stars, playing other top players from leagues across Pennsylvania. DSBP has boasted District 27 championships at various age levels in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 as well as the larger Section 8 title in 2021 and 2022 at the 12u level. Both Section champions made strong showings in the state championship tournament. But this year’s team came particularly close, dropping a 3-2 extra-inning nail-biter in the semi-final to North Pocono Dandy Lion Little League, who subsequently captured the state championship crown.
The DSBP team, which adopted the name Blue Lightning, was led throughout the post-season by workhorse pitcher Kiera Norton (50.1 IP, 60 K, 3.48 ERA). One peculiar aspect of Little League softball are rules limiting the number of innings a pitcher may pitch each day, meaning that managing pitching depth is critical. “It’s no secret the importance of great pitching at this level of softball,” said Coach Amoroso of the challenge. “We were fortunate to have depth in our pitching.”
Depth was indeed a strength. Diminutive 7th grader Madi Charlier (16.2 IP , 17 K, 3.36 ERA was anything but diminutive in several innings of surgical relief and a complete game gem in the final game against state champion North Pocono, a team that had scorched DSBP for 14 runs in an earlier contest. Izzy Orchard (4 IP, 5K, 1.75 ERA), another 7th grader, provided a solid third option in the rotation.
Norton, a fireballer who normally lets her arm do the talking, remarked of the pitching staff, “Madi, Izzy, and I each stepped up when we had to. No matter who was pitching, we were always pulling for each other.”
Offensively, leadoff speedster Pascale Nehlsen (.588 OBP, 26 R, 18 SB) was often the team’s catalyst. It seemed as though Nehlsen and fellow rising 8th grader and bunt specialist Katie Mikita (.484 OBP, 13 R) were always rounding the bases as sluggers Lainey Furman (.550 BA, 10 XBH, 21 RBI) and Abby Kilgarriff (.410 BA, 6 XBH, 13 RBI) provided the lineup with elite pop. A tournament highlight was Furman’s five- RBI performance (3 for 3) including the team’s only HR of the tournament in a third round victory against Section 1 champion Mideast/Cochranton Little League. The ball to left center field cleared the fence easily, scoring Nehlsen and Mikita in the 10-0 victory. Also providing consistent firepower throughout the tournament were pinch hitting specialist Alyssa Whitehead (4 XBH) and powerful outfielder Jules Doble (.654 OBP, 5 XBH, 12R). Fleet-footed newcomer Kate Gennarelli and veteran slugger Taylor Kuch provided reliable bench spark for the Blue Lightning.
The defense was also stellar, led by standout performances by silky-smooth 3B Sofia Amoroso, sure-handed catcher Natalie Guerin, and ever-reliable centerfielder Corinne McReynolds who each made several clutch plays to keep tight games within reach.
But the real story of this team may not have been the performance of any individual as much as team commitment and coaching philosophy. Several years ago, a group of visionary coaches led by BPALL board member Chris Pilato, then-DSLL board member Kelly Hutchinson, Kevin Chu, and Adam Roseland saw that a travel softball program that could draw from the talented but raw DSBP league players and provide year-round training would make the Little League tournament teams more competitive. From that vision grew the T/E Thunder travel softball program of which most of these tournament players are now part.
Coach Amoroso, a former collegiate player, coached Thunder teams for the past several years and was a natural choice to steer this tournament team.
“The integrated T/E Thunder travel program with our rec league has made all the difference in elevating the level of play for these girls. When you play tournaments all year together, practice indoors and strength train all winter, you not only develop strength and skills, but team camaraderie.”
Along the way, that commitment has been contagious, and the team has gained fans. One notable supporter is Bridget Orchard, whose daughter Izzy pitches and plays outfield for the tournament team, “Watching these girls grow as softball players and teammates has been amazing. From struggling to make routine plays or make contact when batting to now making diving catches, getting lead runners, and hitting homeruns has been really cool to see.”
And Orchard knows a thing or two about softball – She is currently the head softball coach at Villanova University, winner of the last two Big East softball championships, “These girls have given their hearts to softball along with a lot of hard work. They will have a very bright future playing ball!”
Guy Ciarrocchi, an assistant coach with the team who has been coaching softball for 23 years agrees. “They have so much heart and talent. I am so proud to be a coach for this team.”
The 2022 DSBP “Blue Lightning” 12u softball team
#2 Corinne McReynolds OF
#4 Izzy Orchard OF/P
#8 Katie Mikita SS
#11 Taylor Kuch OF
#12 Abby Kilgarriff 1B
#16 Kiera Norton P
#19 Sofia Amoroso 3B
#20 Alyssa Whitehead OF
#22 Pascale Nehlsen 2B
#24 Natalie Guerin C
#25 Madi Charlier P
#26 Jules Doble OF
#35 Lainey Furman OF
#72 Kate Gennarelli OF
Head Coach Christine Amoroso
Assistant Coach Guy Ciarrocchi
Assistant Coach Alex Ciarrocchi
Assistant Coach Ana Ciarrocchi
Assistant Coach Laura Manion
Assistant Coach John Kilgarriff
Scorekeeper/Statistician Ken Guerin
The 2022 DSBP 12u Tournament Run:
vs. Coventry LL, Win 11-0
vs. Lower Merion LL, Win 19-2
vs. Lower Perk LL, Loss 6-7
vs Lower Merion LL, Win 11-1
vs Lower Perk LL, Win 6-2
vs Lower Perk LL, Win 10-0 (District 27 Championship game)
vs District 21 Champion Bensalem LL, Win 15-5
vs. District 22 Champion Plymouth LL, Win 10-2
vs. District 22 Champion Plymouth LL Win 4-3 (Section 8 Championship game)
vs District 18 and Section 6 Champion Anthracite/Towamensing Twp LL, Win 17-1
vs District 17 and Section 5 Champion North Pocono Dandy Lion LL, Loss 6-14
vs. District 1 and Section 1 Champion Mideast/Cochranton LL, Win 10-0
vs District 11 and Section 4 Champion West Suburban LL, Win 3-2 (8 innings)
vs District 17 and Section 5 Champion North Pocono Dandy Lion LL, Loss 2-3 (7 innings)
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