By John Knebels
Sports Columnist

GLENSIDE – Small ball. It might not be exciting, but in softball, winning teams must know how to execute it.

On May 27 at Arcadia University against top seed Lansdale Catholic, St. Hubert’s meticulously forged the only run of the game in the top of the seventh inning. Add that to tremendous pitching by senior Melissa Robinson, and the Bambies are the Catholic League champions for the third consecutive season.{{more}}

“This is unbelievable,” said Robinson. “Three in a row.”

This is the second straight year that Robinson dominated in the marquee game of the season. Last year, Robinson tossed a two-hitter and struck out 13 in a 2-0 win over Archbishop Wood. This time, she did even better, allowing only one hit and one walk while whiffing 14.

A member of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Northeast Philadelphia, Robinson had all of her pitches working effectively.

“She did a great job of mixing her pitches,” said Lansdale Catholic coach Paul Suder. “She works the corners and keeps you off balance.”

St. Hubert’s coach Dave Schafer agreed.

“It has been a team effort, but you can’t win without great pitching, and Melissa has given us that,” said Schafer. “This whole group is great to be around.”

Schafer is doing the same thing he did years ago at Bishop Conwell (now Conwell-Egan), where he won 12 league championships from 1977 through 1993. Now that Hubert’s has snared three straight, another dynasty is in our midst.

Robinson, whose legacy at Hubert’s also includes four years as a member of the school’s Community Service Corps, said Schafer’s success has not occurred by accident.

“He is a great coach,” she said. “We trust everything he says to us. Whatever he wants me to throw, I throw. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and it starts with him. Even in practice, we work hard but we enjoy it. Not every team can say that.”

Not surprisingly, the Bambies’ latest title included steady suspense. St. Hubert’s (17-5) had a few offensive chances throughout the contest, but Lansdale Catholic pitcher MaryCate Scott made key pitches when she had to, and as the game ventured into the late innings, it appeared as though the winning team would have to get a break along the way.

In the seventh, freshman Erica Ragazzone led off with Hubert’s fifth hit of the game, a single to right field. Pinch runner Kathleen MacFeeters moved to second on Jessica Grzywna’s sacrifice bunt, and then to third on a groundout by Sam Coyle.

With Hubert’s sideline doing its best to unnerve LC’s Scott, Bambies catcher Jessica Mishinski slapped a ground ball to shortstop. A strong throw from Kelly Shoener to a stretching Brittany Bray was the definition of a bang-bang play.

As the umpire spread his arms to indicate an infield single, MacFeeters crossed the plate.

Not surprisingly, most of Lansdale Catholic’s faithful thought the runner was out while Hubert’s fans opined that the call was accurate. In truth? Too close to call.

But the bottom line was that St. Hubert’s had managed to break the ice, and all that was left was for Robinson to close the deal. After getting two outs, Robinson issued a walk before inducing a game-ending ground out to third baseman Lisa Robbins, and the Bambies raced to the mound to celebrate their three-peat.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Robinson.

It might. The Bambies are the Class AAAA finalist and a victory June 3 over Girls’ High will advance them to the state tournament, in which they lost in the quarterfinals last year.

Meanwhile, Lansdale Catholic is vying for the Class AAA crown June 3 as well. The Crusaders will take on Franklin Towne Charter. Win or lose, the Crusaders start an all-underclassmen lineup, so this may be a preview of things to come. The same for Hubert’s, which started only two seniors.

“Lansdale Catholic is a good team,” said Robinson. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they went very far. They definitely have a chance to win states.”

Great pitching, and great sportsmanship as well.