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Smart D sends Greencastle to District 3-AAA final

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All season, the Greencastle-Antrim softball team has prided itself on its defensive turnaround from last year. And Tuesday, the Blue Devils' improved defense paid off in a big way.

Greencastle turned a smart - and crazy - double play to end the game and claim a 4-1 victory over Garden Spot in a semifinal of the District 3 Class AAA tournament after the Spartans loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh.

Garden Spot’s Elizabeth King entered the batter's box and popped a ball to shallow center field, and it looked to be just out of reach for G-A's Morgan Wagaman. But with the web of her glove, Wagaman clutched the ball - which bobbled for a moment before she squeezed it - to record the second out of the inning.

Wagaman then tossed the ball to first base, and the final out became a game of monkey in the middle.

After a failed attempt to tag the runner, first baseman Alicen Hoover threw the ball to Liz Ward at third, because Camryn Focht was traveling from second to third. The ball took a short bounce in front of Ward, who was late getting to the bag to tag Focht out. She made a move to throw it back to second base - which had a Spartan runner moving toward it - but was halted by her teammates shouting to tag third base, despite Focht standing on the bag.

Her touch registered the third out of the inning and ended the game, because Sophia Charles, the runner on third when the play began, never returned to tag the base after the fly-out.

"It was a very confusing ending," Greencastle coach Mark DiCarli said. "Our defense has been playing great and we knew they could do the job, and even with the confusion out there, it kind of confused everyone in the stadium. We figured it out and got the last out."

"I don't even know what happened," Ward said. "I know Morgan caught the ball, and I got it, and everyone in the dugout was screaming something at me - I didn't know what - until finally I heard someone yell, 'Touch the bag!' So I just walked over and touched it and they called the game over."

Greencastle (18-5) moves on to play Donegal (18-5), the reigning district champion, in the District 3-AAA title game on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at York College, and has officially qualified for the PIAA state tournament.

"It makes me proud that our defense has picked it up this year," DiCarli said. "Everyone knows last year defense was our Achilles heel and we picked it up a lot, so it gives an ease to my mind, our pitchers mind, and everyone can do their thing."

Greencastle capitalized on multiple Garden Spot errors in the opening innings, gaining its four-run lead almost solely on botched plays. Just one of Greencastle's four runs were earned.

"To get where you need to get you have to have a little luck on your side, but you also have to take advantage of their mistakes," DiCarli said. "But overall we played well and did what we had to do to advance."

But despite the four-run cushion, Garden Spot, which won its first district playoff game in program history last week, continued to battle in the late innings in an attempt to capitalize on a tiring Ally Brown on the Greencastle mound. But the Blue Devils' defense stranded seven Spartan runners on base, and allowed just one run on a wild pitch.

"I tell the team all the time, as long as you have one out left, you still have life and you can still score runs," Garden Spot coach Ashley Mansfield. "It's not over, and that's the mentality we took right into the seventh inning."

With its first trip to the district title game since Greencastle's two seniors were just freshman, Ward is excited to face the challenge again.

"I'm so excited," Ward said. "We are so ready and the atmosphere is going to be really good. I was a freshman when we won (the district championship), so being a senior now is really exciting."