Early blitz knocks out Bulldogs
UNIVERSITY PARK – Minersville came into the PIAA Class A championship on a roll, scoring 35 runs on 37 hits in three state playoff games.
That explosive offense was too much for Claysburg-Kimmel, making its first title game appearance, to overcome on Friday before a capacity crowd of 1,350 at Penn State’s Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park.
The Miners came out hitting against Kiersten Coho, scoring four runs on seven hits and a couple C-K errors in the first three innings. The Lady Bulldogs couldn’t solve the pitching of Riley Gerenda for the first six innings, producing just no runs and two hits before they threatened in the seventh inning after a one-hour, 20-minute lightning delay.
C-K stroked four hits in the top of the seventh, including a pinch-hit RBI single by little-used senior Katelyn Gerheim. When Madison Ickes singled to left field for the fourth hit, Christina Wannyn was thrown out at home on a perfect relay throw to catcher Morgen Woodford to give the celebrating Miners a 4-1 win.
“They’re a good hitting team,” C-K coach Mike Barbarini said. “Kiersten held them down pretty good. We didn’t make some plays behind her, which would have changed the game a little bit, especially early.”
“Honestly, there’s nothing to hang our heads about,” senior right fielder Abby Kulick said. “We came out and did our best and we still made school history.”
The Lady Bulldogs, who thrilled the community with its run through the state playoffs, finished with a 22-5 record. Minersville finished with a 24-3 record.
The Miners scored a run in the first inning when leading hitter Adrienne Kroznuski beat out an infield hit, stole second, went to third on a passed ball and scored on Morgen Woodford’s two-out single to right field.
They added three more in the second when Maura Bentz laced a double to right-center gap, moved to third on a Alyse Ryan sacrifice bunt and scored when Reighly Melochick beat out an infield hit. After another Kroznuski hit, two more runs scored on a couple errors on Lindsey Snyder’s ground ball.
“They were key,” Minersville coach Dave Homa said of the early runs. “We watched the 2011 game. In the last two times we’ve played for the state title, we’ve scored 10 runs with two outs. We scored four today with two outs. We made her make a lot of pitches, and when she made a mistake, we jump on it.”
“We looked in the paper and saw all of the averages were above .341,” said Coho, who gave up only two more hits in the final three innings, “so I expected they would hit the ball.”
Minersville put runners on second and third in the third, but Coho induced a pop-up and a ground ball, both to second baseman Madison Ickes.
Gerenda held C-K hitless for the first four innings before Mercedeze LeMaster pounded a two-out double to left field.
“Early on, we were swinging at pitches out of the strike zone,” Barbarini said, “which was really helping her out. Once we made her come down in the strike zone and throw strikes, we started to make more contact.”
C-K’s first threat, though, came in the sixth, when Ickes worked her second walk off of Gerenda with one out, and Kulick singled to right field. Ickes slid into third, and Kulick made it to second on the throw to third. But Gerenda struck out Mallory Cox and Coho looking to get out of the jam.
The sun was shining for most of the game, but it was delayed after that because of impending lightning, the field was covered and the stadium was cleared.
“We all just kind of vegged out for a little bit (in the batting cage area),” Kulick said. “Maybe it kind of gave us a chance to calm down. We were rattled because of the fact that we were losing.”
Minersville got two hits when play resumed, but Coho got Kroznuski to fly out to right fielder Kulick. That’s when C-K mounted its rally.
It started with Hannah Claycomb smacking a one-out double to left-center field. With two outs, Wannyn singled to left. Barbarini chose to pinch-hit Gerheim, a senior who had one hit in four at-bats this season, for No. 9 hitter Whitney Helsel, and Gerheim came through with a single to center, plating Claycomb.
“She’s a senior, and she’s been a rock all year playing with us,” Babarini said. “I thought I’d give her a chance to get an at-bat in the state championship game, and she gets a hit. I told Karen (Dugan, assistant coach) to remind me late in the game to get some of these seniors in the game if we thought the game was out of hand. She came through.”
“I was just hoping ‘Please let her get a hit, please let her get a hit,'” Coho said, “and then she got a hit, and I was like ‘Thank you.’ I was happy she got a hit.”
With Wannyn on second, Ickes, who had worked two walks off of Gerenda, singled sharply to left. Barbarini waved Wannyn toward home, but shortstop Melochick took the throw from left fielder Alyse Ryan and threw to Woodford, who tagged Wannyn in front of home plate for the stunning final out.
“I saw they were throwing to their cutoff,” Barbarini said, “and they were basically saying go ahead and score. Christina is not that fast, but I thought she could sneak down the line and get us another run. Their shortstop looked at second first and then looked home and still had time to throw her out. That was a mistake on my part. I never should have sent her.”
“I don’t know, he wanted to score,” said Kulick, who would have followed Ickes to the plate. “He just had to go for it, I guess.”
“Alyse makes a good relay to Reighly and Reighly gunned her out, so it was pitch-perfect defense,” Homa said.
As Kulick, one of seven seniors playing their last game, talked with the media afterward, a silver medal hung around her neck. Proof of a very good season, and that’s what she wanted to emphasize.
“It was great,” Kulick of the season. “No other team in Claysburg history has been here, so that’s an accomplishment in itself. Our medal might not be gold, but we all got a medal. We’re not going to dwell on this loss.”
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (1): Ickes 2b 201, Kulick rf 301, Cox c 300, Coho p 200, Morgan 3b 200, Claycomb ss 311, LeMaster lf 301, Walter pr 000, Wannyn cf 301, Helsel dp 200, Gerheim ph 101, Glass 1b 000. Totals: 24-1-6
MINERSVILLE (4): Melochick ss 412, Kroznuski cf 422, Snyder rf 200, Mealey 1b 300, Woodford c 301, Polinsky cr-pr 000, Leshko 2b 301, Sterner 3b 301, Bentz dp 312, Ryan lf 200, Gerenda p 000. Totals: 27-4-9.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Claysburg-Kimmel000 000 1-1 6 2
Minersville130 000 X-4 9 0
E-Claycomb, LeMaster. 2B-Claycomb, LeMaster; Bentz. RBI-Gerheim; Melochick, Woodford. SAC-Morgan, Ryan. SB-Kroznuski. CS-Ickes (by Woodford). LOB-Claysburg-Kimmel 6, Minersville 7.
Claysburg-Kimmel: Coho (L)-6 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO.
Minersville: Gerenda (W)-7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO.
Records: Claysburg-Kimmel (22-5); Minersville (24-3).
Umpires: Joseph Brown, Stuart Rockwell, James Thomas, Danny Troxell