By John Knebels
Sports Columnist

Playing a schedule filled with more talented teams has its advantages and disadvantages.

Even though you will probably lose most of your games, the stiff competition should theoretically strengthen your resolve and improve your all-around game.

And that’s precisely what happened for the St. Pius X softball team. {{more}}

“When you compare how we played in the beginning of the season and the end, we definitely got much better,” said pitcher Deirdre Wieber. “The competition we faced throughout the season was a big reason for that.”

Competing in the Pioneer Athletic Conference (PAC 10), the Pottstown school was a symbolic little kid playing against teenagers. Since AAA and AAAA enrollment classifications field most of the conference, the AA St. Pius squad usually faced uphill challenges, and that was reflected in the Winged Lions’ regular-season record of 3-15.

But since Class AA has so few teams, the Winged Lions automatically had a chance to finish strong in the District 1 tournament.

Taking advantage of a rare opportunity to face teams with similar enrollments, the Winged Lions dispatched Springfield (Montgomery County) 10-3 in the first round.

St. Pius X suddenly found itself in a championship battle with high scoring New Hope-Solebury. After falling behind 3-0, the Winged Lions prevailed 11-6 and captured their sixth consecutive district title.

Key contributions included Megan Kugler’s three hits and three RBIs, Kate Eliff’s two hits and two RBIs, a two-out RBI double by Marley Golato and a two-run single by Jane Rogers.

After a rugged start, Wieber settled down and allowed only six hits.

“The teachers and the parents were very excited, and we were, too,” said Wieber, a product of St. Aloysius School in Pottstown. “It wasn’t like we went crazy jumping up and down. But we did feel good about what we accomplished.”

Since Wieber was the oldest player on the team (the remaining players were either freshmen or sophomores) and playing the most important position on the field, the junior hurler admitted she felt pressure to succeed.

St. Pius X coach Rory Graver was gratified while watching his players celebrate such a momentous victory.

“Winning districts was one of our goals,” said Graver. “We have so many young players, and it’s been great watching them get better and, most importantly, come together as a team.”

This was the last year for St. Pius X High School. Next year St. Pius X will combine with Kennedy-Kenrick High, Norristown, to form the new Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford.

Wieber said it was “very important” for the girls to keep the school’s athletic tradition alive for as long as possible. Winning districts allowed that to happen.

“We picked a good time to get back to states,” said Wieber.

Ironically, the team facing St. Pius X in the first round was none other than Kennedy-Kenrick.

A member of the Catholic League, Kennedy-Kenrick had been a force since early March. Among the Wolverines’ most impressive outings was a 3-0 victory over St. Hubert’s Fighting Bambies, who would eventually snare both the Catholic League championship and a District 12 title.

With a scoreless game heading into the bottom of the third, Kennedy-Kenrick erupted for seven runs, spearheaded by Monica Levins’ two-run single. By the time the game was over, Kennedy-Kenrick had posted a 9-2 triumph. The Wolverines’ season came to an end a few days later in the second round of states.

The winning pitcher for Kennedy-Kenrick was Nikki Troisi, who has established herself as one of the area’s best. Like Wieber, Troisi will be a senior next year at Pope John Paul II and will likely be slated as the team’s top pitcher next spring.

Wieber realizes the inevitable and is taking the optimistic approach.

“She’s a great pitcher,” she said. “I can play third or first, anywhere really. I’m looking forward to it.”

John Knebels can be reached at