Pitching picks up where bats left off in PIAA quarterfinal win
If there’s one thing area teams have learned this season, it’s that when the Chambersburg softball team gets rolling, there’s not much that can stop the floodgates from opening.
And Thursday’s PIAA Class 6A quarterfinal game against Perkiomen Valley looked to be the perfect recipe for another explosion of power from Chambersburg’s bats, thanks to a three-run first inning.
But Perkiomen Valley had a trick to keep the waters from rising – Abby Wild.
After allowing three runs in the top of the first inning, Perkiomen Valley held Chambersburg off, allowing just one hit the rest of the way. But fortunately for the Trojans, their early lead was enough to punch their ticket to the PIAA semifinals.
Chambersburg claimed a 3-1 win over the Vikings thanks to a hot start and lights-out pitching from Laken Myers and Leah “the Goose” Hunt to advance to the PIAA semifinals on Monday. The Trojans will face undefeated Hempfield Area in the state semifinals for the second straight year.
Chambersburg battled with two outs to bring in the eventual game-winning runs in the top of the first inning thanks to a two-RBI triple by Sammie Bender, and an RBI single by Laken Myers.
Alexis Estep started things off with a single to right, followed by a walk to put Dori Loukopoulos on base. Bender followed with a bases-clearing triple to center, and was later brought home by an infield hit off Myers’ bat.
Bender has hit in the cleanup spot throughout the postseason, but switched with Loukopoulos for the quarterfinals. A move that paid off for the Trojans.
“That was huge for me because I’ve been not hitting well,” Bender said. “Hitting is like a rollercoaster and I was at my low point but the whole week I just dedicated myself to my swing, so that really got me pumped."
But from there, the Chambersburg bats fell silent.
“Being up three to nothing is nice, but you’re still worried about the quality at-bats,” Chambersburg coach Chris Skultety said. “We had some nice at-bats in there but I thought we threw some of those away.
"After the second or third inning we just didn’t look very good at the plate, but we have to credit Wild for that. She’s a phenomenal pitcher. To shut down this offense like that in the middle innings, you have to tip your cap to her.”
The Trojans fell in order in five of the next six innings, with just one hit – a double to deep left by Leah Hunt – in the remainder of the ballgame.
“I think we kind of got comfortable with it, which was bad,” Bender said, “but we know each other and we support each other and we knew we were going to get it done in the end.”
Hunt said, “Even though our bats went a little flat – well, a lot flat – after that first inning, we still came out there defensively to get it done.”
Laken Myers gave up just two hits in five innings of work, while Hunt was stellar in relief, racking up four strikeouts in the final two innings.
And with a flair for the dramatic, registered a four-pitch strikeout to end the game in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“That was really exciting,” Hunt said. “I was just back in that ‘Goose’ role – come in and shut them down."
Bender had a number of nice grabs at first base as the Trojans held the Vikings to just three hits.
“I knew what was at stake having a small lead so I just kept telling myself if it’s anywhere near me I have to go for it,” Bender said. “I just had to make those plays for my team and for Laken and Leah pitching.”