Smith takes one for team, lifts D6 to victory
UNIVERSITY PARK — Central graduate Olivia Smith wasn’t expecting to hear her name called to bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th inning of the Pennsylvania Softball Coaches Association All-Star Game.
Smith started the game from the No. 3 spot in the District 6 lineup against District 4, but she hadn’t batted since the fifth inning. With the liberal substitution rules in the game, though, Bellefonte coach Fred Caldwell called on Smith to bat.
“I was getting ready to run,” Smith said. “I thought I was going to pinch-run, and then they put me into hit. I started shaking.”
She worked the count on District 4 pitcher Kristie Epler of Wyalusing to three balls, and then Epler hit her in the arm, forcing home Diana Roher with the winning run and giving District 6 a 2-1 win in 11 innings on a gorgeous Thursday night at Penn State’s Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park.
“I was really nervous going up there,” Smith said. “I guess they trusted me to be the one to do it, but I got hit, and we pulled out a W for the last hurrah of our high school season.”
The teams were tied, 1-1, after the scheduled 10-inning game, but the teams decided to play one more inning using the international tiebreaker rule – starting the inning with a runner on second base.
“We didn’t think we’d be playing another inning,” Smith said, “but I’m glad we did.”
Mount Union’s Sarah Gearhart, the winning pitcher, pitched to only two batters in the top of the 11th because the tiebreaker runner got caught in a rundown.
“They were very good hitters,” Gearhart said of District 4. “I knew nothing about them.”
The bottom of the 11th started with Roher reaching third on an Epler wild pitch. District 4 opted to intentionally walk Mifflin County’s Eleana Eckley and Bald Eagle Area’s Mackenzie McCloskey, loading the bases for Smith, who is a fan of the substitution rules.
“It’s great,” she said with a smile. “We love to just play. We’ll do anything to win. It’s fun.”
District 6 held a 1-0 lead until the eighth inning, when Milton’s Amanda Arnold drove in Katie Koch with a two-out double to right-center off of Mifflin County pitcher Hanna Kanagy.
Almost everybody on both teams played and seemed to have a good time as some met for the first time. For some, it was their last time on the diamond. For others, like Smith, who will play softball at Davis & Elkins College, it was more time before playing in college.
“It was so much fun, especially playing with competition, I guess,” Smith said, “and just being together and playing with them. We had so much chemistry, and it was a great experience. Softball has blessed me with so many opportunities to meet so many new people, so many great people. It gave me so many opportunities that I could ever ask for.”
“It was a lot of fun,” Philipsburg-Osceola graduate Hannah Thompson said a week after helping her team win the Class 3A state title. “I didn’t have any stress. It was my last game ever playing with some of the best athletes in District 6.”
Thompson in collision
While the theme of the night was camaraderie and having a good time, the game got kind of intense in the 10th inning.
Smith, a pinch runner, got caught in a rundown between third and home for the second out.
With Thompson on third, Roher hit a ground ball to third base. Instead of the ball being thrown to first base, it was thrown to catcher Katie Koch as Thompson broke for home.
Thompson collided with Koch, but the Lewisburg grad held onto the ball for the third out.
“I didn’t know that she was going to throw the ball,” Thompson said. “She didn’t have the ball at first. I did not expect to do that at all.”
Bauman collects two hits
Claysburg-Kimmel’s Mikalynn Bauman had two hits, while Smith, Glendale’s Makenzie Lukehart and Moshannon Valley’s Sidney Lewis had one each. Lewis pitched three scoreless innings in relief, striking out five and giving up two hits.
Glendale’s Kristen Hewitt had two walks, and C-K’s Raelynne Grabill also played. Central’s Jenna Ritchey was on the roster but didn’t play.
Five locals inducted into HOF
Philipsburg-Osceola’s Kate Burge and Carly Gonder, Bellwood-Antis’ Taylor Payne, Central’s Taylor McKnight and Moshannon Valley’s Sarah (Rebar) Fye were inducted into the District Hall of Fame halfway through the game.
Southern Huntingdon’s McKenna Garlock, Mount Union’s Ashlyn Drake and Bellefonte’s Erica Devinney were also inducted.
Fochts present scholarships
Jamie and Dawn Focht, the parents of the late Mikayla Focht, who died in a ATV accident on April 14, 2017 as a senior at Hollidaysburg, presented four $1,000 scholarships in Mikayla’s name at halftime.
Mount Union’s Gearhart and Rohr, Southern Huntingdon’s Bailey Jenkins and Bellefonte’s Alexis Wetzler were the recipients.