"We were real nervous," said Conestoga coach Tom Compitello. "Marple is a good team with a good pitcher, and we were not playing a team that would roll over."
The Tigers scored three runs in the first inning on only one hit, an RBI single by Jen Ruscitelli.
Conestoga starting pitcher Debby Cracas had control problems, walking three batters in the first inning.
She started the second inning with a walk to Laurie Murphy, which proved costly. Murphy advanced to second on a wild pitch, went to third on a Marcia Haney ground out and scored after Darlene Dengler struck out. On the whiff, Conestoga catcher Debbie Frey dropped the ball on the third strike and had to
throw to first for the out. Murphy gambled and raced home safely on the throw.
Trailing 4-0 in the fourth, Conestoga was beginning to get in another jam.
Cracas walked Ann Flora to open the inning. Flora stole second base before Murphy grounded out. Cracas walked Haney, and Compitello decided to change pitchers.
"Debby got to start because she's a senior, has varsity experience and looked good in practice," Compitello said. "She deserved to start."
But Compitello didn't want the walks to force Conestoga into deeper difficulties, so he gave the ball to sophomore Beth Woosnan.
"Let me give the 10th grader some experience," he said were his thoughts.
Woosnan came in and struck out Dengler for the second out, and ended the Tigers' threat by picking Flora off third base to end the inning. In the fifth, Woosnan put down Marple Newtown in order before the Pioneers let loose with some of their own offense.
Conestoga sent 10 batters to the plate in a six-run inning. Erin Tozer walked to start the period, and she was sacrificed to second by Frey. Cracas, who had moved to right field, and Marlo Bullinger were also walked to load the bases.
Sara Braendel put the Pioneers on the board with a single to center field to knock in Tozer. Judy O'Brien was walked to force in another run, and after Hope Woelke grounded into a force-out, Woosnan sent in another run by drawing a walk.
With the Pioneers trailing 4-3 and the bases still loaded, sophomore Cindy Molloy hit a line drive that glanced off rightfielder Murphy's glove. All three runners scored on the two-base error.
"I called her over before she came to bat and asked her if she could hit it," Compitello said. "She said, 'No problem.' "
With the lead, Conestoga just had to continue to hold its own on defense. Woosnan was mowing down batters with her windmill-style fastballs.
But she became erratic in the last two innings. After walking the first two batters she faced in the sixth, Woosnan struck out the side.
In the seventh, two walks and a single loaded the bases before Woosnan recorded her sixth strikeout to end the game.
"She developed her self-confidence," Compitello said. "She was wild and inconsistent, but she's easing in. The more work she gets, the better off she'll be."
And so will Conestoga.
Marple coach John Metka wasn't discouraged with his team's play. He attributed many of the team's mistakes to first-game jitters.
"Other than one bad play, we played really well," he said. "I know we'll be better because the pitcher will throw better."
He was referring to the performance of Ruscitelli, who allowed only three hits but walked seven batters.
In other Central League contests:
Haverford scored 12 runs in the fourth inning to blow open a tight game against visiting Radnor en route to a 18-4 win. Tracy Donahue's grand-slam home run capped the Fords' rally, which was aided by five Red Raiders errors and four walked batters.
"I have a young team, and I know I'll have days like this," said Radnor coach Lew Bryan.
Lower Merion wasn't able to hold on to a three-run lead in the seventh inning and lost its opener to host Penncrest, 15-14. Freshman Stephanie Dillon, pitching her first varsity game, had a perfect game entering the bottom of the fourth. With a 7-0 lead, Dillon tired and gave up five runs. She eventually left the game in the sixth with a 12-8 lead. In the seventh the Aces had two outs on their hosts, but an RBI single and two popups were dropped for errors to lead Penncrest to victory.
Lisa Goodhart led the Lower Merion offensive attack with three hits and three runs batted in. Melanie Barto and Tanya Weinberg each added two hits.
Great Valley overcame a 4-1 deficit at Phoenixville to win the nonleague contest, 15-6. Marty Laudato had four hits and drove in five runs to pace the Patriots. Melissa Rea and Kim Kastle contributed two hits each. The Patriots trailed 4-1 after two innings, but scored at least one run in each inning after that for the win.
Cardinal O'Hara had a busy week, playing three nonleague games. Monday the Lions lost to Conwell, 6-1. O'Hara then lost to Archbishop Ryan, 9-7, on Wednesday before rebounding for a 17-4 thrashing of Bishop McDevitt on Friday. A nine-run fourth inning erased a 4-2 McDevitt lead, and the Lions' defense held on for the win.
In another nonleague game, Delco Christian wiped out an 11-0 lead against visiting Mercy Vocational to win, 16-15, on Thursday.
Rachel Wedeven paced the Knights with six RBIs.