C-L's valiant effort falls short

The Lions' seventh inning rally falls a few runs short as C-L falls to Cambridge Springs 9-5 in a PIAA opener

By Steve Smail

For the CLARION NEWS

ERIE

No one can say the 2021 Clarion-Limestone softball team didn't have fight.

The Lions trailed Cambridge Springs 9-1 heading to the seventh inning but C-L came out swinging as the Lions plated four runs in the frame, but the deficit was too large for C-L and the Lions wound up falling 9-5 to the Blue Devils in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs on Monday afternoon (June 7) at Penn State Behrend in Erie.

"When we came off the field in the sixth, I told the girls I didn't know if we would score or not, but we needed to score some runs to try and extend the game," said C-L manager Jason Craig. "I told them to be proud no matter what because no one expected us to be here in this game. So, I am happy that they kept fighting to the end."

Each team collected 10 hits for the game with the difference being six of the 10 hits for Cambridge Springs went for extra bases with all six coming around to score.

Cambridge Springs opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning as Paige Verbanac singled to lead off the inning. Kylee Miller then walked before Aly Acosta-Reyes laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third. Chloe Schultz then grounded out to shortstop to drive in Verbanac for a 1-0 lead after one.

The lead remained 1-0 until the top of the third. Abby Himes reached base on an error and stole second base. Kendall Dunn then laced a ball into the left field gap to score Himes and Dunn circled the bases and was initially called safe for an inside the park home run giving C-L a 2-1 lead. However, after a conference by the four umpires the call was reversed calling Dunn out at the plate which ended the inning with the score tied 1-1.

"Maybe I shouldn't have sent her there, but at that point I thought it could be a one or two run game, so I took that chance," said Craig. "She was safe at first, but then they reversed the call. The explanation I got was that the two umpires near home plate didn't see the tag, but the third base umpire said he saw a tag so they changed the call."

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Cambridge Springs took advantage of what turned out to be a significant error as the Blue Devils scored three runs to take a 4-1 lead.

After a ground out and a nice play by Regan Husted who came up with a diving catch on a ball hit by Hailee Rodgers, Myranda Findlay hit a ball to Husted at second and her throw pulled first baseman Alyssa Wiant off the base allowing Findlay to reach. The Devils would make C-L pay for the error as Kenzie Lewis hit an RBI triple, Maddie Dragosavac added an RBI double, and Verbanac hit a run scoring single.

In the top of the fifth inning, C-L threatened to score as the Lions worked the bases loaded with three walks but there were two outs. The Lions' threat ended on a fly out.

Cambridge Springs added three more runs on three more extra base hits in the fifth inning to take a 7-1 lead. After one out Schultz doubled and Taylor Smith followed with an RBI triple. Rodgers contributed an RBI double and Findlay posted a run scoring single.

The Devils scored their final two runs in the bottom of the sixth as Miller walked and was sacrificed to second by Acosta-Reyes. Schultz reached on a fielder's choice grounder when Miller ventured too far off second and was tagged out by Cassidy Makray. Smith added her second RBI triple in as many innings while Rodgers delivered an RBI single for a 9-1 lead after six.

The C-L bats finally woke up in the top of the seventh as Frances Milliron hit a one out single. After a fly out to center, Dunn singled to move Milliron to second. Makray came up next and hit a ball that was misplayed at shortstop for an error allowing Milliron to score, Dunn moved to third and Makray darted to second. Husted chased Dunn and Makray home with two-run single. Abby Knapp and Alyssa Wiant hit consecutive singles with Wiant driving in Husted to make the score 9-5. A strikeout then ended the game and the season for C-L.

"I wish it wouldn't have taken so long for our bats to get going," said Craig. "We got girls on in different innings but weren't able to get that clutch hit like we'd been getting throughout the playoffs. We're losing two seniors in Cassidy Makray and Carlley Hunter. We're definitely excited for the next couple seasons with what we have coming back."

Dunn, Husted, Knapp, and Wiant each had two hits for C-L. Milliron and Himes each added one hit. Dunn hit a triple for the lone extra base hit for the Lions. Husted drove in two runs while Dunn and Wiant each added one.

Verbanac, Smith, and Rodgers each had a pair of hits for Cambridge Springs. Smith hit a pair of triples with two RBIs. Rodgers also drove in a pair of runs while hitting a double. Schultz, Findlay, Lewis, and Dragosavac each added one hit with all driving in a run. Schultz and Dragosavac each doubled while Lewis tripled.

Rodgers went the distance to pick up the win for the Devils. She allowed five unearned runs on 10 hits. She walked three and struck out five and hit one batter.

Makray took the loss allowing seven runs, four earned in 4 2/3 innings. She allowed eight hits, one walk, two strikeouts and one hit batter. Husted pitched 1 1/3 innings allowing two earned runs on two hits with one walk.

Cambridge Springs will take on WPIAL champ West Greene today (June 10) at Slippery Rock University.