District 15 rallies for win in Big League softball states
MANSFIELD - Down three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning Bethany Manley stepped to the plate for District 15 in the Big League Softball State playoffs at Mansfield University.
With the outfield playing in the Troy graduate crushed a ball to the fence, allowing her to round the bases for an inside-the-park home run that sparked a four-run seventh inning as District 15 defeated Mountain Top, 7-6.
Manley didn't know how to react after she hit her first ever home run.
"I really didn't know what I was thinking," she said. "I was just shocked. I never had hit a home run in my life."
Manley hadn't had much luck against Mountain Top early in the game, so the home run came as a bit of a surprise to her.
"I popped up all the other ones," she said.
For District 15 the home run was a big boost to their confidence.
"It pumped us up a lot," Holland said.
"Everyone was up on their feet," Manley said.
Manley's home run cut the District 15 deficit to 6-4 and the next batter, Wyalusing's Maddy Eberlin singled. After Mountain Top pitcher Alyssa Davies got a strikeout, Athens' Mackenzie Hafer drew a one-out walk to put two runners on.
With the tying run on base Wyalusing graduate Arielle Kneller delivered, lining a two-run triple that tied the game.
"I knew she was going to come right at me," Kneller said. "I just had to wait. I didn't want to pop it up."
With the winning run at third base and one out Holland came up with a chance to win the game.
The Wyalusing player noticed the defense moving in and she took advantage.
"They were all moving up trying to get her (Kneller)," Holland said. "I knew I needed a hit to get her home."
For Kneller there was a lot of emotion as she crossed the plate with the winning run.
"My heart is pumping," she said.
"It's so goot to get to the first game," Holland added.
For District 15 the game didn't start well as Rachael Ritz led off the game with a triple for Mountain Top and Melanie Snyder followed with a home run of Athens graduate Katelyn Serfass to put District 15 down 2-0 two batters into the game.
"We were nervous, but we knew it was just the first inning and we could come back," Kneller said.
District 15 cut the deficit to 2-1 in the second inning as Jensen Dunkling singled and her sister followed with an RBI double.
Mountain Top added two runs in the third inning as Snyder and Ashley Casem scored runs to make it 4-1.
District 15 got another run back in the fourth as Brittany Smith and Jensen Dunkling had back-to-back hits with Smith scoring for District 15.
Mountain Top got two more runs in the fifth inning to build the lead to 6-2, before District 15 got another run back in the sixth as Kneller singled and came around to score. There was a chance for more, but Mountain Top threw out Holland at the plate to keep it 6-3, setting up the big seventh inning.
While District 15 wasn't getting a lot of runs early, they knew they were hitting the ball well.
"We were hitting it right to them, but we knew eventually we would find the holes," Holland said.
Serfass started the game for District 15, and she was followed on the mound by Northeast Bradford's Courtney Coleman and then Manley in the seventh.
Manley threw a shutout seventh inning to keep it 6-3 and set up the seventh inning, walking one in her inning.
"Without warming up I surprised myself," Manley said of the way she pitched.
While Mountain Top had some success against Serfass early, the District 15 players think that after facing the big lefthander they struggled against the right-handed pitchers later in the game.
"I think that was a big part of it," Kneller said.
District 15 moves into today's final at 11 a.m. at Mansfield University and they have some confidence after the comeback to carry into the game.
"I feel confident," Kneller said.
District 15 got the home run from Manley and a hit from Eberlin. Hafer had a hit and Kneller had a pair of hits, with the triple.
Holland and Smith each had hits. Christin Dunkling had a double and Jensen Dunkling led the District 15 offense with a 3-for-3 day.
Casem started on the mount for Mountain Top, followed by Davies on the mound.