Lampeter-Strasburg advances to state finals with win over Abington Heights
ALLENTOWN — In a game filled with big moments, the moment never got too big for Lampeter-Strasburg.
Down an early run and scuffling a bit versus Abington Heights pitcher Paige Harris in Monday night’s PIAA Triple-A semifinal, the Pioneers rallied past the Comets, 2-1, to clinch a spot into the PIAA Triple-A finals for the first time in L-S softball history.
The Pioneers (26-2), the third-seed from District 3, will face District 7 third-seed Yough (22-3) — the Cougars defeated Pioneers’ rival and District 3 champion Donegal 1-0 on Monday — in the Triple-A title game to be held Thursday at Penn State University Softball Park at 12:30 p.m.
“It’s a dream for a lot of these kids and it’s going to be a great experience,” said Pioneers’ coach Tim Shoff. “We’re fortunate to be there, and I’ve got confidence in our team.”
While L-S was confident from the get-go Monday, District 2 champion Abington (17-2) was able to exert its will early on when seniors Cassie Toth and Marissa Lewis combined to plate an unearned run in the second inning.
After Lewis drilled a one-out double to left center leading off the inning, Toth came through with a single up the middle, the ball squirting under the glove of L-S centerfielder Jordyn Kondras to allow Lewis to come home.
That was all the Comets could muster, however, despite solid scoring opportunities in the first, fifth, and sixth versus Pioneers’ senior pitcher Jordan Weaver.
“I was just focusing on throwing strikes,” Weaver said. “I said to the team, just stay calm on defense. If runners get on, just stay calm, because we have the last at-bat, because we’re going to put the bat on the ball.”
That said, L-S was unable to square up anything versus Harris (3K, 0BB) in the early going. Four first-pitch outs, including three pop-ups on bunts, hindered the Pioneers’ scoring opportunities through the first three innings.
But L-S knotted the score in the fifth, and Weaver backed-up her words in the sixth, coming to bat with two-outs and the speedy Kondras on second base. Kondras led off the inning with a single and was sacrificed to second by Hanna Garber. After a pop-out by Delaney Baker, Weaver poked Harris’ offering to shallow left.
“I know I was struggling (hitting) in States and Districts,” Weaver said. “I have to get the bat off my shoulder and just swing and that’s what I did there. My sister (catcher Kylie Weaver) comes in and goes, ‘you finally got the bat off your shoulder.’ ”
Garber likewise credited Kylie Weaver for keeping the team’s spirit high despite the early deficit.
“Our catcher Kylie was getting us up more and more,” Garber said, who represents the younger of another Pioneers’ sister duo, along with senior Bri. “We had to score anyway, might as well score two.”
L-S first evened the score in the fifth inning as Hanna Garber smoked a leadoff triple to right center, scoring on a clean single to center from Baker (2-for-3, RBI).
This, coming moments before the Cougars had a leadoff triple of their own, clean-up hitter Dominique Emmett lacing a single down the left field line to open the top of the sixth.
But Weaver (8K, 2BB) induced a pop-up from Kaylee DeMatteo, struck-out Naudia Solan after an excellent at-bat, and got Lewis to ground out up the middle, shortstop Caroline Braungard corralling it and making the long throw to first to end the inning.
Weaver then gave her team the lead, before closing it out with a strikeout and two grounders to strand speedy pinch-runner Allison Fiorillo on second.
“I can’t even put it in words, being a senior and going at this,” Weaver said.
“It’s so amazing,” Hanna Garber said coming from a different, but no less true, perspective. “Especially to get here this young and to know you have more seasons to come with your girls… we’re probably not going to be sleeping tonight, but tomorrow, we have softball camp so all the little kids will be hanging with us.”
Another big moment there, for sure. But nothing the Pioneers can’t handle.
PIAA Softball Semifinals
Lampeter-Strasburg 2, Abington Heights 1
AH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 1 5 0
LS 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 2 6 2
SO-BB — LS Jordan Weaver 8-2; AH Paige Harris 3-0
2B — Marissa Lewis (AH)
3B — Dominique Emmett (AH); Hanna Garber (LS)