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Life on the diamond

If softball is involved, Tiffany DiMatteo usually is too.

A righthanded outfielder, DiMatteo regularly plays for the Archbishop Ryan High School softball team, as well as Philadelphia Flash — a highly competitive fast-pitch tournament squad — and was also chosen to compete in this year’s prestigious Carpenter Cup Classic.

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DiMatteo joined 16 of the area’s best athletes — from Archbishop Ryan, St. Hubert and Little Flower, among others — to represent the Philadelphia Catholic League in this year’s showcase tournament, held June 20–23 at FDR Park in South Philadelphia.

“It was an honor. I wasn’t chosen last year, so this was awesome,” said DiMatteo, who will enter her senior year at Ryan. “The girls are so nice and you get to play with people who you normally wouldn’t. It’s an honor.”

The Catholic League squad scored a 9–2 opening-round victory against Delaware North on June 20. They fell in their second game of the day, 5–1, at the hands of Suburban One League American and Continental.

The loss placed the Philadelphia Catholic League into the elimination round of the tournament, where they lost, 5–1, to Chester County on Wednesday morning, ending their Carpenter Cup run.

“It was tough. We didn’t hit the ball and that’s the bottom line,” said Catholic League coach Mark Caserta, who also heads the Archbishop Carroll softball squad. “We pounded the ball in the first game, then in the second game, we just died. We sat around. The first game was over at 10:25, then we sat around until one o’clock. I’d rather play back to back.

“Overall, the kids played well. But once you lose that game, you’re on edge a little bit,” he continued. “We didn’t hit again. We had opportunities, but we didn’t get the big hit we needed. We had too many strikeouts.”

Despite the Catholic League’s lack of offense, there were some impressive bats in the third outing. Conwell-Egan sophomore Shannon Stricker smashed a triple in the first inning but was stranded on third. Two innings later, Archbishop Prendergast junior Jackie Keifer had a single, followed by a double courtesy of Archbishop Ryan’s Heather Forward, but the Catholic League was unable to produce, once again leaving runners in scoring position.

Their only run came in the sixth. Forward reached first after being hit by a pitch. DiMatteo laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, advancing Forward to second. St. Hubert sophomore Erica Ragazzone walked. Brooke Lackette, a sophomore at Archbishop Prendergast, singled to load the bases for Neumann-Goretti’s Sofia Cedrone.

Cedrone grounded out but delivered the RBI, which would be the Catholic League’s only run. Little Flower’s Kelsey McDonough struck out to end the inning.

“We didn’t get as far as we wanted, but I think we played well,” said DiMatteo, who made a diving catch in leftfield for a double play in the bottom of the sixth. “We didn’t win but we still had fun.”

For DiMatteo, many of her new Carpenter Cup teammates were rivals during the high school season, especially those from powerhouse squad St. Hubert High School — Erica Ragazzone, Jess Grzywna and Gabby DeLeo.

The Ragdolls and Bambies regularly battled throughout Catholic League play this spring. Last week, though, all of that seemed like a distant memory for them.

This time, they were on the same side.

“The whole thing is a really fun experience,” said DiMatteo. “Now, all of the sudden, we’re all playing for the same team, so we have fun with it.”

Although her Carpenter Cup run is over, DiMatteo is far from finished on the diamond. Tournament season is in full swing with the Philadelphia Flash, and DiMatteo once again is traveling throughout country to face the best players in the game.

“I went straight from high school softball to tournament ball, so the Carpenter Cup was kind of in the middle,” she said. “I love playing softball. It’s fun for me. I play year round, all the time, and I love it.

“It’s definitely a lot of dedication,” she added. “You don’t have normal weekends like normal teenagers, but I like it. The girls make it really fun.”

DiMatteo has teamed up with the Philly Flash for five years, helping her squad qualify for the ASA (Amateur Softball Association of America) nationals during that time. She’s traveled to Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and everywhere in between.

“It’s fun times with the girls,” said DiMatteo. “You get to travel all over and the girls make it so much fun. We’re practicing and we’re working hard, but at the same time we’re laughing and having fun. It’s great.” ••

Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at myerkov@bsmphilly.com

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