Catholic Academies League

John Knebels
Sports Columnist

With three innings in the book and only four to go, her team was facing a five-run deficit. While not insurmountable, a dubious quest beckoned.

Panic? No. Concern? Plenty.

“It’s hard not be worried,” said St. Basil’s Academy junior pitcher Sam Gibson. “I mean, you have confidence in your team. But five runs is five runs.”

In the end, Basil’s rebounded from a 5-0 hole by scoring four runs in the fourth, two in the fifth, and three more in the sixth to win a harder-than-it-looked 9-5 decision over visiting Villa Maria Academy in a Catholic Academies League semifinal May 16.

The second-seeded Panthers were scheduled to play top-seeded and defending champion Nazareth Academy for the championship May 18 at Arcadia University.

Those who follow both St. Basil’s and Villa Maria probably recognized the irony of Basil’s come-from-behind victory. In last year’s semifinals, it was Villa Maria that erased a five-run deficit to capture a thrilling 6-5 win.

“I thought about that,” said Gibson, who pitched last year’s heartbreaking defeat. “That goes to show you that you have to stay with it no matter what the situation.”

After Basil’s climbed to within 5-4 heading into the fifth inning, thanks in part to junior Michelle Paulosky’s two-run triple, junior third baseman Paige Schuck was able to relax a little bit. She admitted that staring at such a long climb had implanted within her at least a small seed of doubt.

But trailing by one run instead of five was a significant difference.

“We were swinging the bats good, so at that point I thought we would find a way to outscore them in the final three innings,” said Schuck, who smacked a key double during the Panthers’ rally. “But we also had to find a way to stop them from scoring more.”

Gibson took care of that, holding Villa Maria and red-hot hitter Cailee Gordinier (three hits and four runs batted in) scoreless for the final four stanzas. After a barrage of hits in the fifth inning gave the Panthers a 6-5 lead, Gibson said her adrenaline was “pumping very hard.” She was able to settle down when Basil’s provided three insurance runs in the sixth, aided by junior Kate Larkin (three hits) and sophomore Erin Scanlon (on base four times).

Regardless of how St. Basil’s plays in the championship or whether or not the Panthers receive an invitation to participate in districts, both Gibson and Schuck said this year has already been a success.

“When you think about how people thought we would do, we have definitely exceeded those expectations by a lot,” Gibson said. “We lost some games against very tough non-league games, but we played really well in our league and being the second seed is a great accomplishment.”

Making matters even more exciting is that in the win over Villa Maria, all but two of the Panthers’ starters (catcher Colie Woodill and speedy shortstop/leadoff hitter Anyssa Flores) were underclassmen. Basil’s fielded four seniors on the roster.

While defeating ultra-tough Nazareth Academy is an annual goal, Schuck said it’s essential to maintain a strong mental approach.

“You have to first believe in your abilities,” Schuck said. “If you do that, then you always have a chance to beat anyone, no matter who it is.”

John Knebels can be reached at