James Buchanan softball exceeding expectations
Two weeks ago, James Buchanan coach Troy Pittman was happy with simply making the district playoffs, hoping his young core could get some postseason experience, and come back in the following years and make a run.
Little did he know, his quiet group would make it to the District 3 Class 4A semifinals.
James Buchanan fell 2-1 in eight innings to Eastern York in the third round of the district tournament, but is back in action on Thursday in the consolation game against East Pennsboro at Big Spring starting at 2:30. The winner will move on to the PIAA tournament next week.
"I have to take the positive spin (out of this game) because I don't think anyone expected us to get here," Pittman said. "To even get to the semifinals of districts is a great accomplishment and it's experience for this young bunch. And to get to states would just be phenomenal for this group of kids."
The Rockets (12-11) had a long road to the semifinals, and were used to being looked at as the underdog, but after pulling together an upset of No. 1 seed West Perry last week, James Buchanan was running on a lot of confidence.
"I know a lot of people didn't see this coming," James Buchanan's Jenna Mongold said, "but I believed the whole entire season. I had faith in this team that we were going to go far.
"But I think we came into this team a little too overconfident," Mongold said. "We're just proud to be here in the moment, like, 'Wow we are so close.'"
It was a textbook pitchers' duel between Mongold and Eastern York's Maelynn Leber, who - along with the help of top-notch defense - kept the game scoreless through four innings.
Leber helped herself in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single that blooped over the head of JB short stop Alyssa Blair. But the Rockets were right back in it in the top of the sixth, thanks to a gutsy play by Mongold on a double steal then scored on a throwing error.
"It brought a lot of energy, and that was definitely a momentum changer," Mongold said.
Eastern's game-winning run came across the plate in the bottom of the eighth after Morgan Winter hit a short grounder to James Buchanan's Maddie Bailey, but the runner charged home and slid across the plate just as Bailey's throw tipped off of Grace Amsley's glove.
"The score will reflect that we lost on that last play there, but we had opportunities to win this game earlier," Pittman said. "But you can't fault the girls for anything, I'm tickled with what they've done this season."