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Greencastle-Antrim suffers 5-3 defeat at the hands of Abington Heights in first round of PIAA playoffs Video by Lizi Arbogast

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Most of Greencastle-Antrim's softball success this season has been due to timely hitting and clutch comebacks.

The Blue Devils tried to channel those strategies Monday afternoon in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs against Abington Heights.

But Greencastle left nine runners stranded, including five in scoring position, and despite out-hitting the Comets, the Blue Devils suffered a season-ending loss, 5-3.

"I think in the beginning, we were a little bit nervous, but once we finally started going, everyone started believing," G-A coach Mark DeCarli said. "Today, we had that big inning, and even after a girl hit a big home run, we came back. Our girls fought hard, and I'm proud of them not giving up. I wish we showed a little more fire in the beginning of the game, but that's how it goes."

The first several innings of Monday's game felt very similar to Greencastle's loss to Donegal in the District 3 championship. After Abington Heights (16-1) broke open a 2-0 lead by capitalizing on three walks in the third inning, Greencastle (19-6) finally answered with RBI singles from Ally Brown and Alicen Hoover.

But a Dom Emmett home run scored three unearned runs and that proved to be too much for the Blue Devils to overcome.

With one out, Cassidy Bartkowski reached on an error before a strikeout put two outs on the board. Then Paige Harris helped her own cause with a single, and after Emmett swung at a low pitch and got to a 3-1 count, she hammered one over the leftfield fence.

"Honestly, at first I was really upset with myself for swinging at that first pitch in the dirt," Emmett said. "I really felt that I had to come back from that. It got me jacked up, and when I hit it, I knew it was gone."

From there, the Comet defense went to work.

With one out in the top of the sixth, Liz Ward and Hannah Beeler led off with singles before MacKenzie Oberholzer drove home Ward with a base knock to centerfield. Jess Root reached on an error to load the bases, putting G-A in business. But Abington Heights forced an out at home during Olivia Reminick's at-bat, and a flyout to leftfielder Naudia Solan ended the threat.

"I think it was kind of frustrating because I know we're a better team than what we played today," said Oberholzer, who was the only player for either team to finish with two hits. "(Harris) was a good pitcher, but she was definitely hitable. My two hits – they were perfect pitches. Their defense was pretty strong, though, and they made the plays when they needed them."

Abington Heights got to show off its defensive prowess again in the final inning. Hoover drew a leadoff walk for Greencastle before the Comets turned a double play, and a flyout ended the game.

"Our defense all year has been really tough," Comet coach John Kelly said. "They have all the confidence in the world, and not only in our defense but in the pitcher as well. Paige has been there all year, and they have confidence that she's going to make the right pitch and they can make the plays."

The win puts Abington Heights in the quarterfinals, where it will face Bishop Shanahan on Thursday at a site and time to be decided.

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