Derry softball gets 1st playoff win in program history

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 | 7:39 PM

From the routine-looking plays they made all over the field to the steady pitching and hitting they displayed, Derry softball players looked like they had been here before, like they belonged here even.

The Trojans have experienced the WPIAL softball playoffs many times since the program began in 1979. But they never got to celebrate like they did Tuesday after the final out against South Park.

Derry gave senior pitcher Maddie Berger and a crisp defense just enough offense to work with, and the Trojans delivered their first playoff win in school history 3-1 in the Class 3A first round.

“We kept our heads up and did what we needed to do,” said Berger, who gave up five hits and doubled in the win at Norwin. “This is a big change for us. No one thinks Derry softball can do anything.”

Ninth-seeded Derry (7-6) erased three straight opening-round losses by holding back No. 8 South Park (8-7), a semifinalist two years ago.

The Trojans, who won with just four hits, advance to play No. 1 Mt. Pleasant (14-3) on Thursday in the quarterfinals at a time and site to be announced.

“We did very well,” Derry coach John DePalma said. “When you have the strong pitching like Berger gave us today, it’s pretty easy to do that. We had a plan defensively, and we had a pitching plan to keep them offset. We don’t pitch around hitters. We challenge them.”

Derry was nearly flawless defensively, with Berger and senior first baseman Gianna Copelli making diving catches. South Park was held to five singles and left five on base.

“We were very confident,” Berger said. “We never came into a game this hard before. We did what we needed to do, routine plays, pitched the ball, hit the ball … It was the best we’ve ever played (defensively).”

Derry took a 2-0 lead in the first on consecutive two-out hits by senior Alanna Meloy and sophomore Izzy DePalma, the latter ripping a double down the third-base line to make it 2-0.

After Berger doubled to open the second, senior Gianna Copelli bunted over freshman courtesy runner Rachelle Marinchek. Junior Shelby Glick grounded out to bring home Marinchek for a 3-0 advantage.

The Eagles scratched out a run in the fourth. With runners on first and third, Alyssa Thomas grounded into a fielder’s choice to score a run.

Senior Carissa Bateman also had a double for Derry.

Alysa Hoellien had two hits to lead South Park, and pitcher Kristen Mesick struck out nine.

John DePalma moved Copelli from center field to first base, put sophomore Sarah Dettling in right and slid freshman Maizie Legge from first to right.

The tighter defense paid dividends.

“We worked on some specific things,” DePalma said. “It worked out today in our favor. We’ve got a tough one in the next round, but our girls are looking forward to the challenge.”

DePalma and Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Brunson are good friends through travel softball.

“He’s a great friend. We talk every day,” DePalma said. “It will be a lot of fun. They have a fantastic lineup.”

Berger thought the 2020 Trojans would be the team to break through, but without a season because of the pandemic, the ’21 team held Derry fans in suspense until finally getting its chance to make history.

“Last year we had a good chance,” Berger said. “This year I thought we have a chance, too, and we did it.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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