Corey J. Corbin
New Castle News
There’s no quit in the Wilmington High softball team.
The District 10 champion Lady Greyhounds battled back from 4-0 and 7-4 deficits to capture a thrilling 8-7 win over WPIAL runner-up Deer Lakes on yesterday in the first round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs at Penn State-Behrend.
“This is definitely a big deal for us,” Wilmington senior catcher Courtney Cohen said. “We fought back. It was a hard-fought win for us. I really think we needed this and now we’re moving on to the next step. We’re definitely not finished yet.
“Being a senior and not being done is great. Winning D-10 was great, but this is even better.”
Wilmington (17-3) will play District 6 champion Bald Eagle, which needed eight innings to edge Seton-La Salle 2-1, in the state quarterfinals on Thursday at a time and site to be determined.
“Elite Eight, we’re not happy with that, but we’ll take it for now,” Lady Greyhounds coach Tom Reed said. “I don’t know anything about them. Whoever won the (Bald Eagle/Seton-La Salle) game will host, so we’ll be traveling.”
Thursday is also Wilmington’s Baccalaureate ceremony.
“It’s going to be a busy day, but we’re ready for it,” Lady Greyhounds senior pitcher Kayleigh Shenker said. “The seniors, we live for softball. We’re so ready to play, but we know we have to do other things, too.
“This win is awesome. It’s incredible. We were down and we played really great.”
The game started over two hours late because of rain delays in the first two games of the tripleheader.
“I don’t think it really affected us,” Cohen said. “We came out a little sleepy, but I think we were able to feed off our hits to come back and get the win.”
Deer Lakes (13-4) took an early 1-0 lead when Siera Sarver doubled home Rachel Tanilli, who opened the game with a triple.
Four Lady Lancers hits and three Wilmington errors allowed Deer Lakes to extend its lead to 4-0 in the top of the third.
“We had some errors early and they were able to get their four runs,” Reed said. “Those errors are uncharacteristic of us.”
The Lady Greyhounds didn’t have a base runner against Deer Lakes starter Tiffany Edwards until the third when Nikki McCown reached on an error.
McCown stole second, went to third on Chelsea Rogel’s infield single and scored when Cassidy Marett’s grounder to third resulted in another Deer Lakes error. Alexis Donati made it 4-2 by plating Rogel with a single.
“Every season, we’ve won, but this season, we’re coming together as a team and we’re gelling,” Cohen said. “I think once we get a hit the rest of the team starts feeding off that. That’s what happened here.”
Alanna Elliott singled and scored in the bottom of the third and Donati forced a 4-4 stalemate by scoring on Cohen’s single in the fourth.
The Lady Lancers regained the lead in the sixth. An infield hit and a Wilmington error put runners in scoring position with one away.
Tanilli delivered her second three-bagger of the evening to put Deer Lakes up 6-4. Tanilli scored on Katie Gozzard’s two-out single for a 7-4 lead.
Wilmington’s ‘Comeback Kids’ retaliated with four runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Aryn Boyer, who bats seventh, kick-started the rally with a one-out single and went to third when McCown’s grounder was misplayed by Deer Lakes’ shortstop and center fielder. Ashley Houk belted an RBI single to plate Boyer.
Gozzard fielded Rogel’s grounder and attempted to gun down McCown at the plate, but the home plate umpire ruled McCown wasn’t tagged in a close play at the plate, cutting the deficit to 7-6.
Marett legged out an infield single, scoring Houk. Marett went to second on an error, which allowed Rogel to score the game-winning run.
“We always stay up,” Shenker said. “We always think we can get these runs. We ARE going to get these runs. I think that’s what helps us stay positive.”
Edwards worked six innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits, no walks and three strikeouts.
“It took us a while to catch up with her,” Reed said. “We were impatient at the plate. We knew she had a good changeup. We worked on that at practice (Sunday). The kids just didn’t react well to it at all.”
Wilmington received key contributions from the bottom third of its lineup — Boyer, McCown and Houk. Boyer had two hits, while McCown reached safely in all three at-bats and scored twice. Houk had an RBI single and scored a run.
Marett also had a pair of hits and Rogel scored twice.
“They’re definitely hitting,” Cohen said. “They’re clutch for us. They’re definitely helping us pull through, but this is a team effort — one through nine. I thought we all did a really good job.”
Shenker picked up the win by scattering 10 hits over seven innings, while walking one and striking out one. She allowed five earned runs.
“We’ve been down before, but these kids never give up,” Reed said. “They keep plugging away.”
Tanilli went 4 for 4 with two triples and two singles, while Sarver had two doubles for Deer Lakes. They each had two RBIs.
Gozzard, Maria Taliani and Stephanie Drapela each two singles.
“A lot of it was the placement of the ball,” Shenker said. “It was right where they needed it. I tried to learn quickly to move it to where they weren’t hitting it as well.”
***To view a photo gallery or to buy pictures from the game, CLICK HERE.