FACTORYVILLE – For a Lackawanna Trail team eager to play for a district championship, a full seven-inning game could feel like an eternity. The Lady Lions’ bats made sure all seven innings would not be necessary.
Trail erupted in the fifth inning for nine runs over Blue Ridge in Thursday’s Class A semifinals match for an early 12-2 win over the Red Raiders.
“We stayed within ourselves and played our softball game,” Lackawanna Trail head coach John Brander said. “We were patient at the plate and took the hits where they came.”
Blue Ridge took the upper hand early. A bunt single, error and passed ball put left fielder Taylor Hall at third base in the first inning. Catcher Rebekah Bayle batted in Hall with an RBI single that gave the Red Raiders an early 1-0 lead.
“You keep the pressure on anybody things can happen, but when you start to throw the ball away, that’s a killer,” Blue Ridge head coach Bob Pavelski said.
The Lady Lions tied the game in the bottom of the first thanks to an RBI triple by left fielder Gabby Truesdale that scored infielder Cameron Crock.
Trail added two more runs in the third to push the score to 3-1, but Blue Ridge held on. Two errors in the fifth allowed the Red Raiders to cut the lead down to one.
The Lady Lions’ offense clicked in a big way in the bottom of the fifth. Truesdale kicked off the rally with her second triple of the game, this time with the bases loaded. Truesdale’s hit gave Trail a 6-2 advantage.
“They came to play,” Pavelski said. “They’re an excellent, well-coached team… They sit on your pitch to hit. Not what the pitcher wants to throw you, but what you want to hit.”
Thirteen of Trail’s 15 plate appearances in the fifth inning ended with a Trail player getting on base. The Lady Lions scored nine runs to bring the score to 12-2 and invoke the 10-run rule to end the game early.
Truesdale came up for the final Trail at-bat and hit a game-ending RBI single. Truesdale went three for four in the game, with two triples and five RBIs.
“I’ve had a lot of triples this year,” Truesdale said. “I really worked hard for that one.”
Crock, who ended the day with three hits, two runs and an RBI, said she credited several factors behind Trail’s big fifth inning.
“I think once we go through the batting order a couple times and we get used to the pitcher we really start to come together,” Crock said. “Especially if we’re playing well [in the field]…Once we do better defensively and we all work together and feel confident defensively, we know we can hit.”
Lackawanna Trail pitcher Brianna Smarkusky earned the win. In five innings, Smarkusky gave up only two hits, two walks and two runs.
Lackawanna Trail improves to 10-5 on the season, while Blue Ridge ends the year with a 4-12 record. It is the first time since 2005 that Blue Ridge will not appear in the district championship game.
Lackawanna Trail will now face Old Forge, the 2011 district champions, Wednesday at Mid Valley High School for the Class A title. Old Forge defeated Forest City 10-2 in their semifinal match Thursday.
The Lady Lions will be playing for the chance to earn their first district title since 1993. Brander said the class A championship is a major goal for the team this season, and said he is confident his team will come prepared to play in the title game.
“I told them we started this three months ago,” Brander said. “Now we gotta finish what we started.”