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G-A falls in 10-inning battle to Donegal in Dist. 3-AAA final

In the sixth inning of Thursday's District 3 Class AAA softball championship game, Greencastle-Antrim had its rally caps on.

Fans in the stands were whispering quick prayers under their breath, and players were glancing at the dugout and to coaches for a hint of encouragement.

Through five full innings, the Lady Blue Devils had not registered a hit, while Donegal, the defending champion, racked up a 4-0 lead.

But all at once the floodgates opened.

Greencastle (18-6) found its groove and scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth to eventually force extra innings, but the Blue Devils couldn't capitalize in the remaining time, leaving six runners on base in the final four innings as Donegal (19-5) claimed the title with a 6-5 victory in 10 innings.

Donegal pitcher Makyla Yoder pitched a perfect game aside from an error through the first five innings, but a single to left-center field by Greencastle's Hannah Beeler in the sixth was the catalyst the Blue Devils needed to end Yoder's ho-hit bid. It also knocked the team of out of its slump - Mackenzie Oberholzer and Jess Root followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases.

Ally Brown approached the plate with one out on the board and the bases loaded and hit a quick grounder that found the gap into center for Greencastle's first run. Alicen Hoover followed, batting in two more runs with a hit, and Alison Shockey knocked in the game-tying run on a blooper to left center.

"I thought we had the game with our intensity," Greencastle's Liz Ward said. "When we were down, I was thinking this is not good, but when we got those four runs back I thought, all right, we got this."

"All we needed was confidence," Greencastle coach Mark DeCarli said. "It was just a little too late."

After the sixth inning, Greencastle halted any offensive momentum the Indians tried to gather, putting them down in order in the seventh and eighth, and stranding two on base in the ninth.

With the added bonus of a tiebreaker runner on second to start the 10th inning, and a successful bunt to move her to third, Donegal took the lead with two runs scored in the top of the 10th.

"I think we thrive under pressure and I wouldn't want to have it any other way," Yoder said. "It was an intense game with them coming back, extra innings, tie breaker - that's an awesome feeling."

Greencastle answered with a run on Brown's RBI single in the bottom half of the inning, but left runners on first and second by striking out twice, including the final out.

"We withstood the storm," Donegal coach Wayne Emenheiser said. "They battled, and I thought they had a couple opportunities to take it, but we hung in there."

"A couple times I thought, this is it, but they tightened up their defense, got those two runs they needed, and game over," DeCarli said. "Leaving runners on base really hurt us."

Root went 3-for-5, was on base four times and scored twice, while Brown was also 3-for-5 with two RBIs.

Yoder threw eight strikeouts and did not walk any batters in the 10-inning outing, all the while keeping her composure in tough situations.

"She's a gamer; she never ceases to amaze me," Emenheiser said. "She could be on her death bed, and she would come out and throw nine innings like that, that's just how she is."

Ward also pitched the entire game.

"I think, honestly, wanting that game so bad went above my fatigue," Ward said. "When you want something so bad, you push through all that stuff, so I just thought, I don't care how tired I am, or how sore my arm is, I'm going to go out there and I'm going to pitch that ball."

As the runner-up in District 3-AAA, Greencastle will return to the diamond on Monday in the PIAA tournament. The opponent, site and time are still to be determined.