LOCK HAVEN - For Lock Haven and Mansfield, the playoffs began Sunday afternoon at Lawrence Field.
The scenario for the two teams was a simple one. If LHU wins one of the two games, they go to the PSAC championship tournament. On the other hand, the Lady Mountaineers would have to win both games to sport a record identical to the Lady Eagles, qualifying for the PSAC tourney by way of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
After losing a pair of games to the Lady Mounties a few weeks back, the Lady Eagles weren't about to let history repeat itself, as they took care of business to punch their ticket to the championships, defeating the Mountaineers by scores of 3-0 and 5-3.
"We went to Bloomsburg on Friday and they put two solid games together for the first time all year," LHU head coach Kelly Shannon said. "We have been close a couple of times, our defense has been holding us together and we are getting good pitching outings. Today they were definitely excited and I think this being Senior Day helps, but whatever the reason, they just came out and played hard."
Although here team came up just a little short of making the playoffs, Mansfield head coach Edith Gallagher gave Lock Haven credit for doing what they had to do.
"I thought Lock Haven came out ready to play today," Gallagher said. "They put some runs on the board and their defense played very well, although that last inning was a little different. It was obvious they weren't going to make mistakes and that meant we were going to have to beat them."
Both teams showed five hits in the first game, but the difference might have been that LHU bunched some of their hits, while the Mountie safeties were somewhat spread out.
"They put their hits together and I thought the one error we made played a big part in their scoring," Gallagher said. "We both had five hits, but they didn't have any errors on their side. Hitting is contagious and if we could have put our hits together, we might have been able to score and that could have changed the game real quick."
In the opener, LHU did all of its scoring in the second and third innings.
In the second, Chelsea Edwards singled to center and moved to second when Sarah Schwalm was safe on a sacrifice bunt attempt. Edwards and Schwalm both moved up one notch in a groundout by Erin Clary and both scored on a two-run single to center by Alicia Cacciotti.
In the third, the Lady Eagles scored when Brittany Clarke led off with a double to right and later crossed the plate with the final run of the game.
In the second game, Edwards gave LHU a 1-0 lead when she belted a home run to left, but Mansfield answered right back when Jamie Castellano walked and scored when the bases were "juiced" and Kate Pratt was hit by a pitch.
Mansfield took a 2-1 lead on a Pratt home run in the fifth, but this time it was the Lady Eagles turn to tie the game in the bottom of the inning when Cacciotti singled and courtesy runner Taylor McGee scored when Brittany Favazza was safe on a Mountaineer error.
Not to let things get away from them, the LHU bats came alive in the sixth as they scored three runs for a 5-2 lead. Big hits in the uprising were a RBI doubles by Clary and Schwalm.
In game two, Clary brought down the curtain on her Lawrence Field regular season play as she finished with three hits in three tries with a single and pair of doubles.
"After Friday's wins against Bloom we knew what we had to do (to clinch a playoff spot)," Clary said. "We all knew what we had to do to win and we came out and played hard. It really means a lot not only to me, but to my teammates, to be able to play our final game here and go out a winner. We knew this would be our last game on this field and that we had to win so we came out and played really hard."
Now headed for the playoffs, Clary, who has been there and done that before, knows what it takes to keep the ball rolling.
"That would be nice to get back there (to the college world series) again," Clary said. "But we have to take it one game at a time and see what happens."
Mansfield did manage to cause a little excitement in the top of the seventh when it took advantage of two LHU errors to cut the LHU lead to 5-3. But that is when Sarah Morse, who had relieved Nicole Smith in the sixth inning, slammed the door on the Lady Mounties to pick up the win, her second of the day.
In a ceremony prior to the first game, LHU honored its two seniors in Clary and Jess Sefter. With the loss of only those two players, Shannon had every right to smile about the prospects of her team for the future.
"I am just glad that I finally feel like I do have a reason to smile," Shannon said. "They are very good and I have been telling them all along they are talented. It is not always the best team that wins a game, but it is the team that plays the best. I told them that being where we are now is something special for them. I just told them to go out, play relaxed and have some fun."
Following the games, Shannon commented about the contributions she received from her two seniors during their careers.
"Jess hasn't played a ton, but when she has played she has made an impact," Shannon said. "She is one of my better outfielders and in the second game it was not a question to start her when I am looking for a little defense. As for Erin, she has done a great job for the program for four years. She came in here and watched the team win a national championship and then they all graduated. She has had a lot of picking up the pieces, so to speak, over the last three years. I think today was really special for her because for us to win the league in her senior year after being a part of it in her freshman year is a special thing for her."
Lock Haven will open PSAC Tournament play Wednesday when it faces Shippensburg in the opening round of the playoffs to be staged at the Drifton Complex near Hazleton.