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With one swing of the bat, Kaya Swanek sent her Holy Redeemer teammates racing onto the field in jubilation. They mobbed her at first base after Morgan Bienkowski touched home plate, securing a third-straight walk-off win for the resilient Royals.

Seeing another team celebrate at the end of the game is a crushing feeling that's all too familiar to Delone Catholic. The Squirettes saw it almost exactly a year ago today when Central Columbia knocked them out of the PIAA quarterfinals. It was happening all over again on Thursday and again, it was Delone Catholic that had to watch another team move on to the Class AA state semifinals.

As Swanek's base hit rolled into the outfield grass, the Squirettes' heart dropped.

"I really can't tell you how I felt," senior Shayna Rider said, fighting back tears.

After Delone pitcher Cassie Rickrode, who had given up just two earned runs in the last four games combined, managed to strand the go-ahead run at third base in three consecutive innings — including a bases-loaded jam in the sixth — her magic ran out in the bottom of the seventh.

Rickrode got the Royals' leadoff batter out, but the next three hitters reached base. First, Bienkowski singled up the middle. Then Jennifer Ringsdorf reached when Katie Laughman, who had not committed an error all postseason, overthrew MiKayla McCleaf at first base. Both runners advanced on the error, and with one out and a base open, the Squirettes elected to intentionally walk the Royals' No. 3 hitter, bringing Swanek to the plate. On the first pitch, she ripped a single up the middle and ripped the hearts out of the Squirettes, who would have advanced further than any team in program history with a win.

"To keep going, you need some breaks to go your way, especially in this kind of game," Delone Catholic manager Don Smith said. "And today they didn't. It's that simple."

Smith was upset about three calls he believed umpires missed earlier in the game that negatively affected the Squirettes. Smith said it affected his strategy in the final inning, when he wanted to place five defenders in the infield for a possible play at home plate. Smith, however, was out of field visits for the contest — teams are permitted two per game — and couldn't align his defense from the dugout or confer with the umpiring crew.

The final inning was a polar opposite of the first three, when Rickrode limited the Royals to just one hit — a harmless infield single with two outs in the third.

"I thought she (Rickrode) pitched pretty good because that's a good hitting team over there," Smith said. "You make a mistake and they'll take advantage of it and that's what they did."



Rickrode got the scoring started in the top of the first inning, when she hit a towering fly ball to the warning track in center field. The two-out, RBI-double scored Shelbee Holcomb, giving Delone an early 1-0 lead.

The Squirettes added an unearned run in the fourth thanks to three Royals' errors. McCleaf reached base when the second baseman dropped a fly ball, then advanced on a throwing error. Lauryn King came up and laid down a sacrifice bunt, and McCleaf scored on another Holy Redeemer throwing error.

That's when things started to unravel for Delone, however. Olivia Mennig and Kristen Coffay each drove in a run with back-to-back extra-base hits in the bottom of the fourth, but the Royals left the go-ahead run at third. Holy Redeemer's leadoff hitter reached base in the fifth, but Rickrode struck three straight batters out, stranding the runner at third again.

"We weren't worried, we thought we would get some hits and come back," Rider said of the team's mentality after the Royals scored twice. "But we just didn't get those timely hits."

The Royals threatened again in the sixth when they loaded the bases, but Rickrode induced a groundout to end the inning. The Squirettes' 7-8-9 hitters went down in order in the seventh, opening the door for the Royals to walk off with a win. And they did just that.

The Squirettes fought back their emotions as they walked off the field for the final time this season to an ovation from the Delone faithful.

"From how we were playing at the beginning of the season, just to get here (is impressive)," Rider said. "It's amazing knowing that we made it this far."

Holy Redeemer 3, Delone Catholic 2

Delone Catholic1001000—251Holy Redeemer0002001—383

DC, Cassie Rickrode and Lauryn King, HR, Kristen Coffay and Abby Shorts

SO-BB — DC, Rickrode 5-2, HR, Coffay 4-0; W — Coffay; L — Rickrode; 2B — DC, Rickrode, HR, Coffay; 3B — HR, Olivia Mennig

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