"It was kind of nerve-racking since it was my first actual game starting for varsity," Litwin said. "But I knew I had to do it for the team."
The team needed her because usual cleanup hitter Suzanne Swanicke was home sick, battling strep throat since last week. During the Falcons' six-day layoff since tying Neshaminy for the regular-season Suburban One National title, coach Frank McSherry asked JV coach Kristilyn Obert for a replacement player.
Obert suggested Litwin. "She's a hitter," she told McSherry. "She'll do the job for you."
In Wednesday's second inning, senior Lauren Cregan, starting for Swanicke at first base, drew a one-out walk, then was sacrificed to second base. Up stepped Litwin, the designated player, who hit a floater toward the second-base bag that she expected to be caught.
As the ball began falling, "every possible bad thing ran through my mind," Litwin said.
" 'Great, the ball's going to get caught and we're not going to score and I'm going to let the whole team down,'" she recalled thinking.
But the ball fell in between the second baseman running out and the centerfielder charging in. "I was so happy it did," said Litwin, who later stroked a double to the center-field fence.
The stroke of luck ended up being the decisive play because pitchers Val Buehler and Paige DeCew were on top of their games. The Rams (12-10) came in riding a six-game winning streak, and they played as competitively as McSherry and Buehler said they expected.
Buehler, the Pennsbury ace, threw three straight balls to open the game, then allowed a leadoff double to leftfielder Emily Mayhew.
"I got aggravated," Buehler said, "but once I settled in . . . I knew after that she wasn't gonna get anywhere."
The junior gave up two hits the rest of the way, finishing with a six-strikeout, no-walk shutout. That pushed the Falcons (19-2) to a third-round matchup with No. 9 Methacton on Friday as they seek to avenge last year's losses in the district and state finals.
Those losses, both against Hatboro-Horsham in the final innings, remain in the back of the Pennsbury players' minds.
"It's been mentioned, but it's kind of an undertone," McSherry said. "They know what they'd like to do. They know how tough it's going to be."
Pennridge 0000000 - 0 3 0
Pennsbury 010000x - 1 6 1
WP: Val Buehler. LP: Paige DeCew. 2B: Pennr-Emily Mayhew; Penns-Dani Litwin.
Contact Brian Kotloff at email@example.com.