SCRANTON — With the chance of her team becoming a victim of a perfect game growing more possible by the pitch, Betsy Warner was just hoping to put her bat on the ball.
Even that was a major challenge against Morgan Bienkowski.
Bienkowski pitched a one-hit shutout Friday, Tiana Wren became the first high school player to drive a home run over the University of Scranton softball field fence and Holy Redeemer returned to the top of the district after a year’s absence with an 8-0 mauling of Montrose in the District 2 Class 3A softball championship game.
“I did miss it,” said Bienkowski, who helped the Royals win consecutive District 2 and PIAA titles in 2015 and 2016. “It feels good.”
Allyson Laiuvara added an inside-the-park homer and Taylor Josefowicz matched Wren in scoring three times as Redeemer rolled up a 5-0 lead after the first three innings and scored all eight of its runs in the first five frames.
“It felt amazing, actually,” Bienkowski said. “This is one of those games where our whole lineup was hitting. Everyone contributed in some small way.”
The biggest moments, though, belonged to Bienkowski.
The senior righthander finished with 16 strikeouts without walking a batter and was two outs away from completing a perfect game when Warner rolled a solid single back through the box and into center field for the Meteors’ only hit.
“I just went up there, fouled a pitch off, saw something I liked and I just made contact,” Warner said of her single that spoiled perfection. “It was definitely nice. She (Bienkowski) was a much faster pitcher than what we’ve faced in league play.”
Warner was the only Montrose runner to reach first base. And she stayed there, when the Binghamton-bound Bienkowski rebounded with two straight strikeouts to end the game.
“I knew they weren’t hitting the ball,” Bienkowski said. “I guess I’m racking up the strikeouts this year, I think I’m in the 200s. It’s crazy. We utilize the rise ball and the screwball more than any other pitches and both those were working well, which is good.”
Bienkowski struck out the side in succession in the second, fifth and sixth innings, fanned seven straight until catched a bunt attempt that was popped back to her and finished the game the way she began it — with two consecutive strikeouts.
“Oh, she was pitching phenomenal today,” said Wren, Bienkowski’s catcher. “The riser and the screwball were working really well. Morgan has so many perfect games. It would have been really good for her (to get one Friday). Kudos to the girl who hit it.
“They couldn’t even touch her.”
Meanwhile, the Royals touched up Montrose for two runs in the first inning and three more in the third to take quick command of the day.
Wren was hit by a pitch with two outs, moved to second base on a wild pitch and stole third. She scored when Josefowicz singled to left field, then McKenna Dolan drilled a triple for a 2-0 Redeemer lead.
That grew to 5-0 two innings later, when Bienkowski began a three-run rally with a double and scored with Wren’s short fly was dropped for a three-base error. Wren scored when Josefowicz reached on an error and Josefowicz came home with the Royals’ fifth run on a passed ball.
“We stated it from the beginning. We wanted to get the bat on the ball early,” Holy Redeemer coach Jerry Paulukonis said, “and get up on them quick. And go from there.”
Redeemer kept going and going.
Wren led off the fifth with a shot over the left field wall at Scranton U’s Southside Complex, marking the first time a high school softball player put the ball out of that park. Moments later, Laiuvara hit one that stayed in the park. After Josefowicz was hit by a pitch and sacrificed to second base, Laiuvara sent a sinking shot that eluded the diving right fielder and Laiuvara circled the bases with a two-run homer as the ball rolled to the wall.
“It feels really good, after what happened last year,” Wren said, referring to Redeemer’s 6-4, eight-inning loss to Mid Valley in the District 2 Class 3A title game. “It’s satisfying to win it again.”
The victory sends the 17-0 Royals back into state play for the first time in two years, but for the third time in four seasons for Bienkowski and Redeemer’s seniors. They’ll face District 4 champion Loyalsock at 5 p.m. Monday in a first-round PIAA Class 3A game at the Moser Complex in Turbotville.
“For the younger ones, there’s that excitement,” Paulukonis said. “Our older kids know how to handle it. It’s another game to play and another chance to achieve our goals.”
DISTRICT 2 CLASS 3A CHAMPIONSHIP
Holy Redeemer 8, Montrose 0
Holy Redeemer`203`030`0 — 8
Montrose`000`000`0 — 0
2B — Bienkowski. 3B — Dolan. HR — Wren, Laiuvara.
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski