Lancers earn spot in district final thanks to 13-hit performance.

By: Mitch Rupert | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | May 30, 2018


TURBOTVILLE — Summer McNulty's solo home run Tuesday never got more than 15 or 20 feet of the ground. It was a laser which wasn't going to be caught unless someone hurdled the outfield fence first.

It felt like the final put-away punch for Loyalsock yesterday in the District 4 Class AAA semifinals at the Moser Complex. But more than that, it was the epitome of how the Lancers played as earned a spot in next week's state tournament.

Loyalsock pounded out 13 hits, capitalized on 10 Lewisburg errors, and routine hit the ball hard in a 10-5 win over Lewisburg. This was not the lopsided 19-4 affair the two teams played in early April. The Green Dragons made this game a heavyweight title fight.

But for every punch Lewisburg landed, Loyalsock had a better answer. Now the Lancers get to face rival Warrior Run in today's AAA district final at 3:30 p.m. in a rubber match of the season series.

"Sometimes hitting the ball hard is all we have to do," said Loyalsock's Katie Welker, who was 4 for 4 with three RBIs. "The harder you hit it, the more they get a little anxious."

Loyalsock's offensive explosion yesterday didn't match its first-game output against Lewisburg on April 7, but it set a tone with two runs in the first inning. It followed that tone the entire game, never sending fewer than five batters to the plate against Green Dragons pitcher Sydney Hoffman.

When Lewisburg made a mistake in the field, Loyalsock pounced on the chance to take an extra base. And sometimes, that extra base was even home plate. Lewisburg committed at least one error in each of Loyalsock's six at-bats, and even when the Green Dragons got an out on the infield fly rule, Juliana Cruz scampered home when the pop-up was dropped.

"We tried to be more aggressive early in the count. We knew last game she didn't walk anybody, so that was our approach," Loyalsock coach Tom O'Malley said. "We tried to hit it hard and make things happen and that's what we did. One through nine, all the way down the lineup, that's what we did."

Seven of the nine players in Loyalsock's lineup either scored or drove in a run. Cruz reached base all five times she hit and scored four runs. Welker drove in all three of her runs in her final two at-bats. McNulty was on base three other times besides the home run in the sixth, and Maegan Reitz was on base three times and scored two runs out of the ninth spot in the Lancers' order.

When Lewisburg scored a run in the top of the fourth to cut its deficit to 3-1, the Lancers responded with a run in the bottom of the inning on a Bella Barone RBI double. When the Green Dragons plated two in the fifth, Reitz scored on an error and Welker drove in the first of her three runs.

"It's always great for our team to have runs in the first and second innings," Welker said. "It really brings up the energy. If we don't, sometimes it gets us down, but starting off like we did was nice."

Loyalsock dodged a bullet early in the game when catcher and clean-up hitter Rhiallie Jessell was involved in a collision at the plate. On the back end of a beautiful relay from Welker in center field, to Sam Stopper at shortstop to Jessell at the plate, Jessell caught the ball in front of the plate as Lewisburg first baseman Brynn Wagner slid.

Jessell got spiked in the hand unintentionally and pulled up the fingernail on her right middle finger. She stayed in the game after a couple practice throws, but was pinch-hit for in her final plate appearance.

"She had trouble gripping the bat and she had trouble trying to throw, but she gutted it out," O'Malley said. "That's the way she is. She's a leader on the field. Whatever she could give us, that was enough."