By the time Greencastle-Antrim's batters figured out Lower Dauphin pitcher Ava Bottaglia, it was a little too late.
In a Mid Penn Conference softball tournament semifinal game Tuesday at Big Spring H.S., the Falcons rode a four-hit, 14-strikeout performance by Bottaglia to a 4-1 victory over the Blue Devils. LD (17-2) will face Chambersburg (18-3), a 9-3 winner over West Perry, in Thursday's championship game, back at Big Spring at 4:30.
Through the first five innings, Greencastle (14-5) had just one hit - a single by Jenna Carty - and had fanned 12 times. In the sixth, Ally Brown looped a double down the left-field line and Alison Shockey followed with a booming triple to right-center to make it 4-1. The Devils also had two on base in the seventh, but couldn't cash in.
"She's the best pitcher we've seen this year," Shockey said. "Her riseball was the hardest pitch to hit and she threw a lot of pitches on the outside corner. I was trying to kill the ball early, but the last time I made up my mind to just get the bat on the ball and it worked."
Falcon catcher Hannah Swartz said, "We threw a lot of riseballs, because that's her specialty pitch, and she threw it well today."
LD coach Joel Schreiner said, "Ava is a workhorse and she has a lot of big-game experience. She's won a District 3 championship and she pitched in a state final. She's an accomplished pitcher who knows how to shut teams down."
Greencastle did work her for five walks and had at least one runner on base in all but one inning, but Shockey's triple was the only run-scoring hit and she was cut down trying to score on a wild pitch.
"She's a good pitcher, but I wish I had controlled our hitters a little more," Blue Devil coach Mark DeCarli said. "I usually let them swing freely, but I probably should have used the bunt sign more today."
G-A pitcher Liz Ward allowed nine hits, but kept her team in the game. She was helped by her defense, which threw out three Falcon runners at third base in the first two innings. LD's Kayla Holl was a thorn in Ward's side, going 4-for-4 with a double, triple and two runs batted in.
Shockey said, "Even though we lost, we were able to stay right with them, and playing well against a team like that will help us in the playoffs."