UNIVERSITY PARK - To call Hempfield's Karilynn Null a hard-luck loser might be quite the understatement.
Null tossed a one-hit gem against Central Mountain in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAAA State softball tournament
She struck out five Lady Wildcats, issued only two walks and sat CM's side down in four of the seven innings.
Central Mountain’s Paige Dickey comes out to celebrate with Rachael Shady as Kayla Glossner runs over. The Lady Wildcats beat Hempfield, 2-1, yesterday at Beard Field in the opening round of the PIAA?Class AAAA?softball tournament.
"She did everything she could have done for us," Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said. "She only gave up one hit and two walks. You can't ask for much more than that from a pitcher."
Yet her Lady Spartans left Beard Field at University Park with a 2-1 loss to Central Mountain.
"A win is a win," CM head coach Dave Peters said. "We will certainly take it. Hempfield is a real solid team. Their pitcher did a real nice job and held us to only one hit. We played a lot of tight games early in the year. We didn't win many of those, but they really helped us today. We play a tough schedule in the Mountain League and that showed here today. It is a credit to this program and our girls."
The day started with such promise for Hempfield as they scored in the opening frame on an overcast day in Centre County.
Alyssa Bates knocked home Alaina Montgomery on a single to put the Lady Spartans up 1-0.
In the bottom half of the first, Central Mountain answered as Moriah Lindsey earned a walk and Morgan Kunes reached base on an error by the first baseman.
With two runners on, Null surrendered her only hit of the game to Lady Wildcat freshman Jessica Strouse.
Strouse stepped up and delivered a 2-1 rope over the second baseman's head, plating home Lindsey and tying the game up at 1.
"I just tried to stay relaxed," Strouse said. "I was sitting on a fastball and focused on the pitch. She delivered it and I was able to get around on it. It really felt great coming off the bat."
With Kunes on third and Strouse on first, Kayla Glossner smacked a grounder screaming toward the Lady Spartan shortstop Justyne Falbo, who made a great stop and heads up play - tagging second base before Strouse could reach the base.
As Falbo made the great play, Kunes crossed the plate for the 2-1 Central Mountain lead.
"We talked about answering their inning," CM head coach Dave Peters said. "To the girls' credit, they answered the call. They stepped up and got the hit when we needed it. We took advantage of the situation early in the game and grabbed onto the lead."
From there, the story was the Lady Wildcat defense - who held Hempfield in check for the rest of the game.
In every inning but the sixth, Hempfield would put a runner (or runners) on base, only to see the Central Mountain defense come up with a stellar play to keep the game in CM's favor.
"Defensively, we played a great game," Peters said. "Our pitchers did a great job today and the defense played well to let those runs in the first hold up for us."
Central Mountain's starting pitcher Whitney Peters battled through the Lady Spartan batting order for five innings - giving up the lone run on six hits, while striking out three and walking three.
Whitney Peters faced her biggest threat in the third, after back-to-back one-out singles and a walk loaded the bases for Hempfield.
The Lady Wildcats never flinched as Paige Dickey recorded the second out of the inning for Central Mountain on a force play at home and Whitney Peters struck out Michaela LeDonne to end the inning.
In total, the Lady Spartans stranded 11 runners on base.
"It is real tough," Kalp said. "Everything we tried to do just didn't work. Today, the pieces just didn't fall into place for us at the plate."
Hempfield wasn't finished.
Central Mountain closer Rachael Shady had her scare in the top of the seventh, clinging to a 2-1 lead.
After an inning-opening walk and a groundout, Bates knocked a single into the outfield.
Once again, the Wildcat defense stepped up and answered.
Maddie Krizner hit a grounder to Kunes at first, who smartly applied the tag on Krizner going up the line and kept the base runner at third from advancing for the second out.
Down to their last out, LeDonne smacked a ball into centerfield, but the speedy Johnna Garbrick settled under the ball for the final out of the game.
"I felt pressure," Shady said. "Anytime you get the winning run on, you get nervous. I knew my defense was going to catch. As soon as Johnna caught it, it felt great. This is such a great experience for us, as a team."
Central Mountain will face Canon McMillan on Thursday.
PIAA Class AAAA Opening Round
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN 2,
H 100 000 0 - 1 7 1
C 200 000 X - 2 1 0
H: Karilynn Null and Alyssa Bates. C: Whitney Peters, Rachael Shady (6) and Paige Dickey. WP - W. Peters. LP - Null. S - Shady. 2B: H, Sarah DiOrio. MH: H, Bates.