MILLERSVILLE — Slow starts in the district playoffs can prove to be extremely damaging more often than not, and Daniel Boone's shaky beginning in Thursday night's District 3-AAAA softball quarterfinal ultimately ended the Blazers' chances for a return trip to the PIAA Tournament.
Boone allowed single runs in each of the first two innings and an unearned tally in the seventh against Cumberland Valley. Then the Blazers — trailing by two heading to the bottom of the seventh — still nearly pulled the game out when they scored a run and put runners on second and third with none out. But Eagle left-hander Jess Moore came up with two strikeouts and a grounder back to the circle to end Daniel Boone's season, 3-2 at Millersville University.
Moore struck out 13 while allowing five hits. Blazer junior left-hander Bekah Slattery gave up just four hits and one earned run while fanning 10, Nicole Kovach tripled in a run, and Maggie Koch doubled in the other.
"They absolutely capitalized on our mistakes,' said Daniel Boone coach Traci Huddleson, whose squad finished with six errors on the night. "But the heart of the team showed from the first pitch to the last out. This team is filled with dedication, hustle, and love. This team is all heart. It's a special team that truly does believe in each other.'
Top-seeded Daniel Boone (22-2) got off to a shaky start in the field and at the plate, resulting in a 2-0 Cumberland Valley lead after two. Eagle leadoff hitter Taylor Krow started the game — which began exactly two hours late when an earlier contest was delayed by bad weather — with an infield single on the 10th pitch of the at bat, stole second, and scored on a two-out hit by Alexa Erney that also did not make it out of the infield.
Eighth-seeded CV (18-5) added another in the second on a one-out double by Moore and a steal coupled with a throwing error. Meanwhile, the Blazers struck out five times in the first two frames while managing only a single in each inning.
"I think everyone was pretty content and calm,' said Blazer senior shortstop Kovach. "We came out with confidence. We came out confident that we could stay with any team.'
"Not taking anything away from (Moore),' added Boone senior center fielder Megan Piccarreta. "She's a really good pitcher. She has great location. We were prepared for it. She just got the better of us.'
Alyssa Garner got the Blazers going in the third by drawing a 10-pitch walk and Kovach brought her home with a triple to deep center with two away. Boone nearly tied it when Savannah Toth followed with a liner up the middle, but shortstop Kaelyn Buskey came up with a diving catch to retire the side.
That's the way it stayed until the seventh when the Eagles added a run on a pair of errors. Senior left-hander Moore headed to the bottom of the seventh having retired 10 batters in a row.
Gabby Willman grounded a single to left to start the Boone seventh, stole second, and scored on a double by Koch. Then Cara Shackleford put down a bunt and an error put Blazer runners on second and third with nobody out. But a strikeout, a walk, another strikeout, and a grounder back to Moore ended Boone's season.
"I've seen this happen one too many times,' said Blazer manager Molly Bricker, the only other senior on the squad. "It's hard to adjust. You try to fight back. They gave it their absolute all.'