SOFTBALL: Penn Manor's season ends with loss in state quarter
ANNVILLE - Somewhere between the desire to compete and the expectation to win, history is oftentimes made.
For the Penn Manor Lady Comets, their thrilling run through the PIAA State softball playoffs came to a sudden end Thursday afternoon at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, District 3 runner-up Daniel Boone coming from behind with three sixth-inning runs for the 3-1 victory.
Those runs, coming against Comets' dynamite freshman Brittany Hook, backed the equally strong performance of Lady Blazers' senior pitcher Bekah Slattery to advance Daniel Boone (24-3) to the PIAA State semifinals.
"It's great, it's the first time in our school's history that the softball team is going there," said Slattery, a Lock Haven recruit. "So for us, it's a really big deal because we're a piece of history now."
That said, it's not only the victor who gets to write history.
Behind thirteen strikeouts from Hook, the all-time single-season strikeout leader in the L-L League, District 3 four-seed Penn Manor (15-9) was coming off their first ever PIAA state victory after Wednesday's 2-0 win over District 1 champ Owen J. Roberts.
Hook followed up that masterful performance with fourteen strikeouts versus the Blazers, allowing just one hit and a walk in the first five innings.
Down 1-0 in the top of the sixth, however, Slattery singled cleanly up the middle with one out. Sydney Hayes followed suit with another grounder beyond the reach of second baseman Kate Hotchkiss, opening a chorus of Daniel Boone cheers.
"I was like if I can get on base (that) can help the rest of the team the rest of the way and that's what happened, it just started the chain reaction of hits," Slattery said. "(Hook is a) very good freshman pitcher. She liked to throw (rise) on us but she mixed her speeds well, too. She pitched just all around very well."
After striking out Maggie Koch in a thrilling nine-pitch at-bat, Gabby Willman took a Hook offering the other way into right field to score Slattery, with Hayes and Willman moving up on the throw. Savannah Toth, who in the second inning doubled to the gap in left-center, then bounced a ball over Hook in the circle to plate the game-winning runs.
"Anytime you get just one run, you're always quite nervous about it," said Penn Manor coach Dave Stokes. "Brittany has made a lot of one-run games stand this year. I can't say one word negative about her, she threw extremely well. Really some of the base hits they had were seeing-eye ground balls that unfortunately happens sometimes."
Penn Manor took the lead in the fourth inning, Samantha Duplissey singling up the middle to open the frame. After Bri Wood-Hickey's successful sacrifice moved pinch-runner Maddy Curtis to second, designated player Morgan Yingling singled to left for the RBI single.
"We don't really string a lot of hits together so we try to execute our bunts and move runners along when we have the opportunity," Stokes said. "Morgan, she's kind of that diamond in the rough for us. She did DP a few games early in the season, wasn't quite ready, but through practice she's really been showing better, so I gave her an opportunity tonight and she did quite well."
The way Hook had been throwing, it appeared that one run might just be enough.
"I was sure that my team had my back and we were definitely going to get a run back for sure," Slattery said. "Because that was our goal today, to finish, and that's what we did."
Aside from the fourth, Slattery worked her rise and the outside corner to limit Penn Manor's opportunities. A pair of bunt singles in the first inning by Alyssa Schriver and Danielle Wright were left stranded, Schriver also credited with a bunt single in the third.
Then, after the Lady Blazers were able to reverse their fortune, Slattery took command of the victory.
"A lot of adrenaline, for sure," Slattery said on taking to the circle with the lead. "I knew (the Lady Comets) were a very good, strong team, and they were not going to give up, either."
The Lady Blazers' senior had two of her ten strikeouts - all nine Comet starters having at least one - in the sixth inning, working around a four-pitch walk to pinch-hitter to Abi Busswood in the seventh, sealing the win and ending Penn Manor's historic run.
But even as this season is now history for the Lady Comets, the future brings with it an expectation to win.
"I think now they realize that they've earned the right to be considered one of the better teams in the L-L League," Stokes said regarding his players. "Beginning of the season they seemed surprised that we did real well, where towards the end here we would always bear down, settle in.
"We just had a great season, actually far surpassing probably everyone's expectations. A lot of firsts for Penn Manor softball."
Girls' High School Softball
PIAA Quad-A Quarterfinal
Daniel Boone 3, Penn Manor 1
DB 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 - 3 5 1
PM 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 - 1 5 0
WP-B. Slattery; LP-B. Hook
K-BB-Slattery (7IP, 10K, BB) and S. Toth; Hook (7IP, 14K, BB) and Sy. Duplissey
2B-S. Toth (DB)