TURBOTVILLE — Stepping to the plate with a chance to put her team ahead, Tiana Wren looked right at home hitting at Moser Field.
Especially since her last trip to the batter’s box there two years ago resulted in a game-winning grand slam.
Make it 2-for-2 in game-winning blasts that went over the wall.
Wren rocketed a two-run home run in the top of the first inning Monday and Morgan Bienkowski belted a homer of her own and made the early lead stand up with complete-game three-hitter as Holy Redeemer rocketed past Loyalsock 4-1 in a PIAA Class 3A softball opener.
“We have great memories of this field from two years ago,” Wren grinned. “We won against Milton in this same round. I hit a grand slam to win the game.
“I have high expectations for this field.”
Not much changed since the last time Wren visited the Turbotville complex.
She followed her 2016 first-round state blast — that started Redeemer’s second straight PIAA Class 2A championship run during her freshman season — with another monster blow Monday that immediately gave the Royals a 2-0 lead three batters into the game. It also gave Wren two straight home runs in consecutive at-bats at Moser Field, spread over two years.
“That’s kind of crazy,” Wren said.
Her crushing blow over the left-center field fence didn’t end the game like her 2016 shot, but it felt to the Royals every bit as much of a game-winning blast.
That’s because Bienkowski pretty much had the game in the bank by the time she took the circle.
“With Morgan, you only need a run,” Wren said. “Two is more of an insurance run because we still have that extra one to back us up.”
In a rare occurrence, it turned out the Royals needed a little extra from their offense.
For the first time in nearly a month, Bienkowski — gasp — surrendered a run.
During a sixth inning that grew a little dangerous for Redeemer, Loyalsock’s Sam Stopper stopped a string of six straight shutouts by Bienkowski by roping a run-scoring double off the bottom of the left-center field fence to trim the Royals’ lead to 4-1.
“Honestly, they were due for a run,” Bienkowski shrugged. “I threw a lot of pitches that game — 130 — which is a lot for me. This is the best-hitting team we’ve ever faced. I felt that was one of the best games I threw.”
Still, Bienkowski surrendered just three hits — Stopper’s infield single in the first inning and another double by Rhiallie Jessell in the fourth — while finishing with 13 strikeouts. Nine of those came when Bienkowski struck out the bottom three batters of the Loyalsock batting order three times apiece. She did walk two batters and uncorked a wild pitch in the sixth, while surrendering her first run since an 11-1 victory over GAR on May 10.
But with the potential tying run at the plate, the Binghamton-bound Bienkowski escaped further trouble with a strikeout and a foul out to end the late Loyalsock threat.
“It helps having Morgan on the mound,” Holy Redeemer coach Jerry Paulukonis said. “Morgan’s phenomenal. She does her job, she knows what she has to do.”
In the second inning, Bienkowski knew how to get the Royals another run.
She slammed a two-out solo home run to left-center, giving Redeemer a 3-0 lead, and got just under a deep drive that was caught in center field during her third trip to the plate.
Wren roped a leadoff double in the third inning, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and later scored just before Allyson Laiuvara was thrown out on an attempted double steal.
“It’s easier, from experience, to play from ahead,” Wren said. “You can play more comfortable, take more chances, rather than playing it safer when you don’t have the lead.”
The victory leads the Royals right into the state quarterfinals Thursday against either District 1 champion Springfield-Montco or District 12 champ Masterman — which had their state opener rained out Monday and moved to 3 p.m. Tuesday.
“I feel like we can make a run,” said Bienkowski, who played a big part in Redeemer’s back-to-back Class 2A state championships in 2015 and 2016 before the Royals were upended in extra innings in the 2017 District 2 Class 3A title game. “It’s different from our first two (title) teams. We don’t have as much power, but we have athleticism and the drive to do it.”
PIAA CLASS 3A FIRST ROUND
Holy Redeemer 4, Loyalsock 1
Holy Redeemer`211`000`0 — 4
Loyalsock`000`001`0 — 1
2B — Wren; Jessell, Stopper. HR — Wren, Bienkowski.
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski