She could finish with four hits and four runs batted in, but if her team loses, she leaves the field disappointed.
Conversely, she could go hitless and make an error, but if her team wins? It’s all smiles.
Meet Sabrina Pastino, ultimate team player.
The Archbishop Ryan senior – oops, graduate – just completed her scholastic softball career with a resume that boasts consecutive first-team All-Catholic selections, a Philadelphia Catholic League championship, and a PCL title loss.
In the likable leftfielder’s final game – a five-inning, 12-2 loss to Northwestern Lehigh in the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals – Pastino provided the Ragdolls with their only runs when she slammed a two-run homer in the top of the first inning.
“I’m feeling okay,” said Pastino, a graduate of Morrell Park’s Christ the King grade school who will play at Jefferson University next year. “Obviously still upset that my high school career is over. It’s not grand when it ends on a run rule, but that’s just how life plays out. Obviously it wasn’t ideal the way it ended, nor would it be for any type of senior in that position, but I’m proud of how far my team and I made it.”
During Pastino’s three seasons – softball was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic – Archbishop Ryan amassed a PCL-best 24-3 regular-season record. The Ragdolls seized the 2021 title by beating Conwell-Egan, 10-6; lost to Conwell-Egan, 7-5, in last year’s semifinals; and dropped a 6-3 decision to Conwell-Egan back on May 22.
Pastino would have gladly traded her gaudy season statistics – a .612 batting average with three homers and 21 runs batted in – for another PCL plaque.
“I’m able to see the success I’ve been a part of,” Pastino said. “But not only has it been my success, but the success of the people I’ve been able to be around the past three years. My teammates, my coaches . . . these people have truly pushed me to continue to be a better person on and off the field.
“I’ve done a lot of great things, I know. But without these people, a lot of it wouldn’t have been possible.”
Losing to Conwell-Egan in the final this year devastated the Ragdolls, most of whom were visibly disappointed as they left Neumann University and headed for the bus while the victorious Eagles celebrated with their teammates, coaches, friends, family, and fans.
“A Catholic League Championship is a lot harder than people think,” said Pastino. “You truly need a team that’s all in it together, ready to win, and ready to compete – not only for themselves, but for each other. Not only do you see these girls in school every day, but these are your teammates, and without that mentality and being mentally tough, a championship is even harder to achieve.”
Though her total focus was on winning the PCL, Pastino acknowledged Ryan’s enormous success this season.
“I mean, if you look at the way we got there, you can see the hard work and passion this team has,” she said. “The bigger picture was always there for me, even before the game, I told my teammates how much I loved them, and no matter the outcome, how proud we should be as a team that we’ve made it this far. The big picture was there from the very beginning, after every win and, of course, loss.”
Archbishop Ryan coach John Kidwell witnessed Pastino’s positive influence first hand for the last three years.
“She was one of the best players in the PCL this year,” said Kidwell. “She had so many clutch hits for us this season, and it made the rest of our lineup so much better knowing she was batting cleanup for us. She also worked very hard in the outfield and she made herself into a very good defensive outfielder.
“As a person, she was an amazing leader for us. She was super competitive and had a great personality – a great person who you could joke around with, but she also knew a lot about softball. She never changed. She had this great personality the day she walked into Ryan four years ago.”
The only other Ragdoll who graduated, third baseman Janine Swift, raved about her teammate’s ability to combine athletics with friendship.
“Sabrina as a player and person don’t fall far from each other,” said Swift, an alumna of Philadelphia’s Our Lady of Calvary grade school who will major in nursing at West Chester University and not play softball. “In everyday life and during the game, she is beyond humble. Our team always turned to Sabrina when we needed a big hit when we were down, and she always executed. She brought a spark to our team this year that was so needed for us to be as successful as we were.
“It was an absolute pleasure to be able to play with her for the past three years. She’s always willing to do anything for the people she cares about, and that goes for her as a person and player, and it’s something the girls feed off of.”
It’s not exactly a secret as to why Pastino has developed as one of the tri-state area’s top players.
“My whole life has been dedicated to this sport,” she said. “I wouldn’t be lying to you when I say I’d rather play eight softball games in three days than spend it down the shore or on a beach.
“My love for this game has always been there, and at times it has gone down, and I’ve had times when I’ve wanted to quit. But the people around me – my family, and so many others – have pushed me. Being a great player is something that has always been a part of me. I wouldn’t give this sport up for the world. And I am blessed to be able to play it for another four years.”
The Ragdolls advanced to the state quarters after defeating local toughie Villa Maria Academy, 10-9. A back-and-forth affair ended on a game-winning infield single by junior teammate Mya Diorio. Since there had been runners on second and third and no outs, many in attendance wondered why Villa Maria had elected to pitch to Diorio instead of intentionally walking her and setting up a force out at home.
The reason? Pastino was on deck.
Earlier in the contest, however, the soon-to-be exercise science major had injured her ankle sliding into third base and needed to be replaced for a couple of innings. For Pastino to exit a game meant that she was experiencing serious pain.
After stretching and moving around, she re-entered and almost ended up with the game on the line before her teammate took care of those heroics.
“To play in a state game is always an honor, seeing that there are many teams that do not make it,” Pastino said. “Winning our first-round state game on a walk-off was a great feeling, especially because we’re one of only a few Ryan softball teams in years to win a first-round game.
“Going into the quarters, we were confident. To lose the way we lost was upsetting of course, but we all knew how much of an accomplishment it was that we made it that far. This season was a season that I’ll never forget… with such amazing people…and I just know next year will be even better for them.”
Also leaving Ryan and preparing to compete in collegiate athletics is Pastino’s twin sister, Sam. A first-team All-Catholic soccer player defender, Sam will be playing at Holy Family University.
Pastino doesn’t want to dwell on how much she will miss her sister, who 18 years ago outhustled her into this world by a mere two minutes.
“She’s my best friend and always will be,” Pastino said. “She’s there for me no matter what, and I will forever be there for her no matter what she needs. It’s the type of bond that no could ever get in the way of.”
Conwell-Egan 2023 graduate Katey Brennan, voted the PCL Most Valuable Player as a junior and the PCL Best Position Player as a senior centerfielder, always took a few steps back whenever Pastino stepped into the batter’s box.
“Sabrina is a great competitor,” said Brennan, who will play softball at Seton Hall University. “She carries herself well. We knew it would be a challenge every time she stepped up to the plate. I wish her the best of luck when she continues her softball career in college.”
Continuing her game at such a high level validates Pastino’s lifelong sacrifice and diligence.
“It shows me that my hard work is paying off,” Pastino said. “The time I spend behind the scenes perfecting everything, always wanting to be better, allows me to see that other people are seeing my hard work also.
“I appreciate the people who respect me and see how hard I’ve been trying to work towards the sport I love.”
Contact John Knebels at email@example.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.
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