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McKeon launches Kennard-Dale into championship

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MILLERSVILLE - East Pennsboro pitcher Cailey Joyce was in a groove.

One by one she was mowing down the Kennard-Dale lineup during Tuesday's District 3 Class 4A semifinal at Millersville University.

Heading into the bottom of the sixth with the score tied, the Rams needed a spark.

Joyce had retired 16 straight Rams, including eight straight via the strikeout as leadoff hitter Crystal Mullins came to the plate with two outs.

Mullins put the ball in play by bunting. The Panthers catcher fielded the ball, but an errant throw to first led to Mullins advancing all the way to third.

That brought up Jaedyn McKeon, who had registered the Rams' only hit of the game back in the first inning and who scored the Rams only run.

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McKeon, a freshman, delivered again, with a base hit to left field, scoring Mullins with the go-ahead run. The No. 3 Panthers went in order in the top of the seventh and the second-seeded Rams held on for a thrilling 2-1 victory.

"I knew that I was either going to strike out on one of those high pitches or I was going to figure out how to hit her," McKeon said. "We were getting anxious in the box. I was just waiting for my pitch to drive."

The Rams (16-2) advance to Thursday's district title game against either No. 9 James Buchanan or No. 5 Eastern York at a site and time to be determined. James Buchanan and Eastern York were rained out on Tuesday and rescheduled for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Big Spring High School.

"It's so exciting," McKeon said of advancing to the title game and qualifying for the PIAA tournament.

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The Rams made the most out of the three hits they got off of Joyce, who struck out 13 Rams over six innings.

"We had a scouting report on Joyce and she gets away with a lot of high pitches and we preached to stay off the high pitch and just stay in your shoes," said Rams head coach Greg Coulton. "We are just such a better hitting team than we were today. Not to take one iota away from what she did, but we made her look really good. She threw a nice game, but we didn't make them play defense either."

The Rams scored their first run when McKeon tripled to left field in the first inning and scored on a McKeon wild pitch to the next batter.

That tied the game at 1, after the Panthers (16-3) scored in the top of the first off of Jackie McCrea's double to left field brought home Kara Birosak.

Alexis Hurley picked up the win on the mound for the Rams. She allowed six hits, struck out two and walked one. Hurley retired the last nine hitters in a row to end the game.