LAKEWOOD, N.J. – The freshman pitching duo of Stephanie Pepper (Toms River, N.J./Central Regional) and Naomi Stas (Tuckerton, N.J./Pinelands Regional) turned in a pair of tremendous performances and put the Philadelphia University softball team into the playoff hunt going into the final weekend of the season as the Rams swept Georgian Court, 8-0 in six innings and 1-0, in a Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) twinbill Wednesday.
With the sweep, Philadelphia—who has won six straight conference games—improves to 13-29-1, 10-14 in the CACC.
The Rams vaulted into the eighth and final playoff position with a doubleheader against CACC leader Caldwell slated for Saturday, April 23 at noon remaining. Philadelphia is a game ahead of the University of the Sciences and two games clear of Felician and Chestnut Hill. All three teams will also be in action on Saturday.
Before the Rams focus on a big Saturday afternoon, Philadelphia closes out its home and non-conference schedule against St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday, April 22 at 2:30 p.m.
Pepper took the ball in the opener and gave the Rams six strong innings, fanning nine while scattering just four hits and walking none.
The Lions only had one base runner get to third base, Jolei Buonanno with one out in the third. Pepper induced a fielder's choice for a force at second to record the second out. After a stolen base put Lions at second and third, Pepper struck out Alycia Marsello to end the threat.
Offensively, the bottom four spots of the Philadelphia offense carried the load as Gianna Bliss (Phoenixville, Pa./Phoenixville Area), Mariah Hans (Barrington, N.J./Haddon Heights), Shannon Weaver (Sinking Spring, Pa./Wilson), and Renee Kakareka (Schaumburg, Ill./Schaumburg) combined to go 7-for-11 with a walk, drove in five, and scored five runs.
The game was scoreless until the fourth inning when the Rams broke through with three runs. Pepper led off the inning with a base hit and was sacrificed to second by Mollie Burrell (Harleysville, Pa./Souderton Area). Gianna Bliss came up next and singled to plate Pepper and break the tie. Two hitters later, Weaver—who was 2-for-3—connected for a two-out double that scored Bliss. Kakareka made the game 3-0 with a single, one of her three hits.
Philadelphia tacked on five more runs in the sixth inning. Weaver opened the scoring with a RBI single to bring home Burrell, who led off with a walk. After Weaver stole second to put runners at second and third, Kakareka hit a double that knocked home the fifth run as Bliss crossed the plate.
Two more runs scored as Stas forced an errant throw from the Lions shortstop. Pepper was responsible for the final run with a ground out.
Bryana Smith had two of Georgian Court's four hits. Angela Lakatos was the losing pitcher, allowing three runs on six hits in four innings.
In the nightcap, Stas outdueled Georgian Court's Jessica O'Neil to earn the win. Stas recorded her first collegiate double-digit strikeout performance as she fanned 10 Lions and walked just one.
O'Neil suffered the loss despite striking out six.
Megan Letos (Bristow, Va./Stonewall Jackson) led off the third inning with a single to left center. During the next at bat, Letos stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Stas made Letos' strong base running pay off with a sacrifice fly to knock in the game's only run.
In the fourth, the Lions got a run to third base with one away, but Stas got Lakatos to strike out and Stephanie Torrence to ground out to keep the home team scoreless. With the tying run on third with two outs in the seventh, Stas fanned Alex Garcia to end the game.
Philadelphia outhit Georgian Court 5-2.