NEB softball wins second straight D4 title.

By: Chris Manning | Towanda Daily Review | May 30, 2018


TURBOTVILLE – In the District IV, Class A title game it came down to who capitalized on their opportunities because both teams had plenty of those.

Sullivan County had 18 base runners while NEB put 17 on base.

But it was the experienced Panthers, last year's district champions, who were able to capitalize.

They only left six on base while the Griffins stranded 14 with NEB winning their second straight title 11-4.

"It feels awesome," winning pitcher Lindsay Moore remarked.

"This one was almost a little surprising," added NEB coach Gary Hennip. "We struggled early in the year but these kids, they're fighters. They kept getting better and better and by the end of the year we were ready I guess."

The Panthers pounded out 12 hits led by Lindsay Moore, who went 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run, 4-RBI and three runs scored.

McKenzie Haight (2-for-2), Jenna Hansen (2-for-4), Morgan Post (2-for-3) and Jordan Shumway (2-for-4) also had multiple hits on the day with McKenna Hurley and Jaycee Brown also reaching through the bat. Hurley's hit was a double.

Moore also got the win, striking out seven while allowing 11 hits, four walks and four runs, two of them earned.

"It wasn't easy," she said about being in the circle in 90 degree heat. "You've got sweat in your eyes, your sticky…it's pretty terrible."

For Sullivan County Kassandra Houseknecht (3-for-4), Quincy Fry (3-for-4) and Mykenzie Malacusky (2-for-3) had the big bats. Houseknecht also had a triple with two runs while Fry also scored twice with 2-RBI.

Jaeden Patson and Jessica King also had hits while Kyler Burke walked twice.

Madison Burke took the loss, allowing 12 hits, 11 runs and one walk while striking out two.

This is the furthest Sullivan has ever gotten in softball district playoffs, an accomplishment Griffin coach is proud of despite the setback.

"Every time they've ever made playoffs they've gone out in the first round," coach Brian Heisman said. "To be second its enough that it still fires them up. I still think that once it all soaks in they will be pretty pumped again for states."

It was evident that this game wasn't going to be a pitcher's duel as the lead-off batters for both teams had multiple base hits in their first at bat.

Moore led off with a double followed by Hansen getting a single. A Taya Howell sacrifice fly brought in Moore while an error off the bat of Haight scored Hansen to put NEB up 2-0.

Sullivan responded in the bottom of the first as Houseknecht led off with a triple. Two batters later Fry singled Houseknecht in.

She would score on an error to knot the game up at 2-all.

The second inning was the pivotal inning.

Errors in the outfield put Brown and Morgan Post on base, setting up Moore's 3-run home run that tipped off the left fielder's glove.

"I didn't know it was over at first," said Moore. "Until I saw coach say keep going. It felt great."

When it was the Griffins turn to bat they loaded the bases with no outs but back to back strikeouts by Moore followed by a put out by Haight at home ended the threat without giving up a run.

The bats cooled off in the third as neither team scored but the Panthers went right back at it in the fourth.

Post led off with a single. Two batters later she was hit in by a Moore double, who then scored off a Hansen double, extending the NEB lead to 7-2.

Sullivan got one of the runs back when Houseknecht scored off a Fry hit but once again NEB got out of a 1-out bases loaded jam.

They caught Patson at home then got Alexis Randall to ground out to end the inning.

NEB tagged on two more runs in the fifth as Howell walked followed by Haight reaching on an error.

Howell and Chloe Baker, running for Haight, were brought in by a Hurley double to make it 9-3.

Sullivan got another run in the sixth as Fry reached on a single. Two batters later she scored on an error to cut it to 9-4.

However, the NEB offense didn't stop, as in the top of the seventh Hurley and Brown scored two more runs off Sullivan defensive miscues for the 11-4 final.

Heisman felt his team's lack of big game experience may have been a factor as they pressed too hard to get that big hit.

"We were reaching a little bit," he explained. "I think mentally with the noise and all the emotion with the stands and fans I think it was one of those things that they couldn't pull off those hits when they needed to."

Despite the lobsided score NEB was never comfortable thanks to Sullivan's ability to get runners on in.

They had runners on in every inning and the Panthers needed to get three outs at home to preserve their lead.

"We knew they could hit," Hennip explained. "They scored five runs against us the first time around (a 15-5 NEB win), especially that top of the order, the top four, five hitters, they can really hit the ball."

It was frustrating for Moore, who was never able to truly settle in.

"Usually when I play I don't usually let that many on," she said. "I was a little bit frustrated but the defense behind me helped."

As the game opened up she focused more on outs rather than the runners on base.

"It was definitely a relief once we started getting the runs on the board," remarked Moore.

"Lindsay hung in there," Hennip explained. "They had a ton of base runners but she seemed to bare down whenever they had a lot of base runners she bore down. When it counted she got the job done."

Sullivan will now face the winner of District 6 while NEB takes on the winner of a sub-regional between runner ups in District II and District 11.

"It's a wonderful experience," Heisman said about taking his crew to states. "We were so pumped last week, we knew if we pulled that game out against Cowanesque Valley that we would automatically get that berth to states and they're still trying to take all this in."

As for the champions, they're just going to enjoy this one.

"We're just so happy that we won a district championship," he said. "We told them everything else is gravy from here on out."