UNIVERSITY PARK - Blaire Lauthers had the game of her life Friday morning, after which she was engulfed by her teammates in celebration of the Fannett-Metal Lady Tigers winning the PIAA Class A softball championship, 1-0, over Southern Columbia.
"I'm still in shock right now," Lauthers said. "I just told my centerfielder in the dugout, 'I can't believe we did this.' It doesn't even feel like we won states; it's just amazing."
Lauthers was the all-star for her squad, pitching a complete-game shutout and batting in the most important run of the season - the one that won it all.
Lauthers allowed just three to get on base, while she gave up only one hit. Although she walked two batters, her strong catcher, Naomi Fields, threw both runners out to help Lauthers' cause.
"Since it's part of my job, I just like to get them out because it takes a lot of pressure off the pitcher and off the defense," Fields said. "It also stifles the other team so they don't get pumped up about it or anything."
Before the game, both squads knew it could come down to a pitching battle, and Fannett-Metal coach Stewart Miller said he thought Lauthers won that contest by a long shot.
"I would say Blaire managed them a lot better than they managed us," Miller said. "I think some of their kids coming up in the end were intimidated, especially the bottom half of the lineup. I knew they were rattled, so Blair definitely dominated."
Comparatively, Lauthers had a pitch count of just 93, while SC's Mallory Tomaschik threw 125. Lauthers was able to strike out 11 batters, but Tomaschik retired only five with strikeouts in comparison to her six walks.
"(Lauthers) was quick and moved the ball around very well," Southern Columbia coach Al Cihocki said "It boiled down to us needing to get a couple hits, and we didn't get it done. Her pitching was the whole thing."
Lauthers faced just one extra batter, but Tomaschik had to deal with 31 batters against. Fannett-Metal left nine batters stranded, four of whom were in scoring position.Lauther's final inning, during which she had to defend the 1-0 lead, was by far her
"She knew she had to get stuff done," Fields said. "I was telling her not to be horsing around; she just had to get it done. When you can hear the fans cheering, it affects you, and I just wanted to make sure she didn't get caught up in anything and let them get a last inning rally."
Lauthers said she knew she just had to keep her head in the game, and victory would be just a few pitches away.
"In the last inning, honestly, I don't remember what I was thinking; I just saw Megan (Dougherty) smiling at me in centerfield," Lauthers said.
Although Southern Columbia had three strong batters up to face Lauthers in the final stanza, Cihocki said she was too much for SC to handle.
"In the last inning, we had the top of our order up, and she just blew us away," Cihocki said.
In addition to her prowess from the mound, Lauthers also shined offensively, being the only player on either squad with multiple hits. When Lauthers stepped up to bat in the fifth inning, the game was still scoreless and she had already come up short with runners in scoring position twice.
Again, she had a runner in scoring position in Megan Dougherty, who had reached base on a walk. Dougherty had then used her speedy base running to make her way around the bases, stealing second before getting to third on a wild pitch.
"I wasn't sure if we were going to run or not, but once I saw the girl bobble the ball, I felt confident I could get there," Dougherty said.
With two outs and two strikes against her, Lauthers hit a grounder to the shortstop, which was deep enough for Lauthers to get to first safely and allow Dougherty to score what ended up being the game-winning run.
The Lady Tigers (24-4) kept their heads in the game, shutting down Southern Columbia's hopes of making a rally. The Lady Tigers did not commit any errors against SC, which had two, and Fannett-Metal handed SC (23-4) its first shutout of the season to complete the championship run.
"This may be the first game this season where we haven't had any errors," Fannett-Metal assistant coach Rick Lauthers said. "It was a good time for that."
The only other player with a hit for Fannett-Metal was Fields, who had a single to center in the fourth inning. Southern Columbia had just one hit total, which came from the bat of Taylor Hoffman in the bottom of the fifth inning.
"I had a thought in my head that if we eliminated our errors, we'd be in the game," Miller said. "We had no errors, and we hit the ball. We did what we had to do, and I thought it was a well-played game. I'm just so happy to be in this position."