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Lady Barons earn walk-off 2-1 win in States
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Alexa Campbell never lost faith.
After Manheim Central stranded 10 runners on base through the first six innings and fallen behind 1-0 going into their final at-bat, the Lady Barons’ ace pitcher/leadoff batter might have had good reason to do just that.
But Campbell and her teammates were rewarded for their perseverence, as they scored two runs off of Pottsgrove pitcher Marisa Kinneer in the bottom of the seventh inning and earned a walk-off 2-1 victory in a PIAA State Triple-A first-round playoff game at Millersville University on Monday.
"I’m glad it wasn’t a six-inning game," Central coach Steve Ginder quipped. "They’ve had a few comeback wins in that seventh inning and I thought they could do it again. It was just a matter of getting hits together."
Playing in their first State tournament since 1981, the Lady Barons (24-4) will now prepare for District 12 champ Lansdale Catholic, a 3-1 winner over Bethlehem Catholic, in the State quarterfinals today (Thursday).
Even after the emotional high of winning the District Three crown last Thursday, Ginder felt like his girls were focused heading into States, and he believes that will continue as they take the next step.
"They want to play ball — they don’t want to stop," Ginder said.
It didn’t look like anything was going to stop them on Monday after they loaded the bases in the first inning on two-out base hits by Sam Ginder (3-for-4) and Rachel Clippinger (2-for-4), along with a five-pitch walk to Katie VanBlargan. But Pottsgrove right fielder Brandi Dickinson made a nice running catch on Aerika High’s blast to keep the Lady Barons off the scoreboard.
"We just weren’t catching the breaks," Campbell said. "We had a lot of line drives right at them and a couple of double plays that they made. When we had one or two outs, then we’d start getting hits and we just couldn’t get them in right away."
Overall, Manheim Central connected for 12 hits off of Kinneer and they had runners in scoring position in all but two innings. But the Lady Barons were just 2-for-9 in those situations through the first six frames, and they came up empty with runners at third base in the third and fourth innings, as well.
"It gets frustrating after awhile, but you’ve got to let it go," VanBlargan said. "I knew we had it all along, but we weren’t getting (hits) back-to-back and we weren’t (driving) our players in."
Meanwhile, Campbell allowed just one base runner through the first 3 1/3 innings — a two-out walk to the Lady Falcons’ Julia Hartman in the third. Then Pottsgrove loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, but Campbell escaped further trouble with an inning-ending ground out.
The senior star, who has been battling a cold recently, might not have had her best stuff against Pottsgrove, but she got the job done. Although she struck out only two and walked one, she coaxed 17 ground ball outs and yielded just five hits on 92 pitches.
The Lady Falcons, though, broke through for the game’s first run in the top of the sixth. Kinneer led off with a single to left and stole second, and then Maddi O’Brien reached on a one-out fielder’s choice, putting runners at first and third. Next, Emily Miller hit a sac fly to left to make the score 1-0.
Central then threatened in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases on base hits by High (2-for-4), Miranda Becker and Katelyn Grazan. But Kinneer ended it with one of her four K’s to keep it a one-run game.
It was a different story, though, in the seventh. After Ali Morton was robbed on a line drive to center, Ginder doubled to the base of the wall in left-center. Clippinger then singled off the glove of Pottsgrove’s diving left fielder Taylor Robinson and the Lady Barons were in business with runners at the corners.
Moments later, Ginder scored the tying run, as Lady Falcons’ third baseman Hartman was indecisive on a ground ball from VanBlargan, allowing Manheim Central’s catcher to reach on a fielder’s choice.
"(Pottsgrove) played a heck of a game and we just ended up exploding in the seventh inning," VanBlargan said.
The comeback wasn’t complete, however, until High stepped to the plate for her fourth at-bat. After working a 2-0 count, she hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Amber Hansley, and when the ball skipped through her legs, courtesy runner Megan Ebersole darted home with the game-winning run.
"For some reason, our team likes to make it interesting and wait until the last minute to score as many runs as we can," Campbell said. "I never lost faith. I knew that we could do it, especially where we were in our lineup, I knew that we were strong." More STATES, page B-2