Base running sparks Chambersburg's first-round win
The Chambersburg softball team has taken a realistic approach to the PIAA Class 6A softball playoffs: survive.
Not every game is going to be a commanding 13-2 victory, especially battling the top teams around the state.
After racking up a 1-0 deficit against Greater Latrobe in the first round of the PIAA tournament on Monday, Chambersburg went into survival mode.
A gutsy base running call sparked a 4-2 win over Latrobe in PIAA first-round action at Shippensburg University to advance the Trojans to the state quarterfinals against Perkiomen Valley on Thursday.
Perkiomen Valley is the second-place team out of District 1 and squeezed by Parkland 3-2 in the first round.
Latrobe pitcher Meredith Carr and the Wildcat defense kept Chambersburg on its heels in the first half of the game, retiring batters in order three times and stranding two runners on base through the first four innings.
But Trojan pitcher Laken Myers knew just how to get her team out of a rut.
Myers led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a single to center to set up the eventual game-tying run, which was brought across off a gutsy base running play on the third-base line.
Myers' courtesy runner, Kirsten Johnson, charged for a suicide squeeze off a bunt by Taylor Myers, and was caught in a pickle, but was clipped by the elbow of a Latrobe player while on the base path.
Latrobe was called for interference, and the home plate umpire signaled Johnson home to tie the game.
"Johnson did a really nice job staying with the rundown, some will get one throw and stop but she just stayed with it," Chambersburg coach Chris Skultety said. "That was nice because we were struggling to score and we had to try to do whatever we could there."
From there, the floodgates opened.
"It puts energy in the team and really got us going," Johnson said. "Runners to me is one of the most important things because they're the ones who score the runs and gets everyone going, so it was amazing to be apart of it and to help my team. After that we knew we were finally there, we were finally Chambersburg softball."
Lexi Leedy and Alexis Estep followed with RBI singles to give Chambersburg a 3-1 lead heading into the top of the sixth.
"We had to keep grinding away," Skultety said. "We had a couple really nice, hard-hit balls, but their short stop (Karley Kovatch) was fantastic for them, and she made a couple really nice plays, but we had to keep plugging away."
Latrobe put one more run on the board in the sixth inning thanks to a single by Rebecca Tatone to score Morgan Schweizer, but the Trojans responded in the bottom of the inning off another hit by Laken Myers to score courtesy runner Laikayn Wagner.
"We told the girls we needed to get just one and keep attacking," Latrobe coach Rick Kozusko said. "It was a well-played game, and my girls didn't let a miscue turn into something really ugly."
"Our courtesy runners are fast and smart on the bases which is so important," Myers said. "And that gets into the infields' heads too because (our runners) know what they are doing and they know how to score runs."
Myers was 3-for-3 with an RBI, while Caeley Etter hit 2-for-3.
"For me, I'm starting to focus on hitting the first pitch," Myers said. "I was always told that's the best pitch I'm going to see so just go for it, and that's been working for me."
Carr pitched 5 1/3 innings for Latrobe, struck out four batters and allowed seven hits and three earned runs. Kiley Myers came in to register the final two outs of the sixth.
Chambersburg's Leah Hunt threw three innings, and struck out two batters. Hunt allowed four hits and one run before being relieved by Laken Myers, who allowed five hits, one earned run and struck out two.