SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP. — During her splendid high school basketball career, Sam Rajza thrived on 3-point field goals.
On a magical day in the PIAA softball playoffs, she suddenly turned just as dangerous with three-base hits.
And for the third time in four years, she helped Holy Redeemer reach the state softball semifinals.
Rajza tripled and scored during each of her first three trips to the plate Thursday, Tiana Wren unloaded another monstrous and historical home run, Morgan Bienkowski worked a one-hit gem and Redeemer stormed past Springfield-Montco 11-1 in a PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal game that was stopped after five innings at Parkland High School.
“I don’t think I’ve had a triple all season,” Rajza said. “I was just trying to make contact. Basically, I try to hit singles and move runners.
“Today, I just had extra pop off my bat.”
Must have been a big-hit bug that hit the whole lineup.
Bienkowski had a triple and a double and Taylor Josefowicz doubled as the Royals ripped seven extra-base hits among their 13 hits.
Then there was Wren, who blasted a mammoth homer for the third straight game and finished with a team-leading four RBI.
Her towering two-run shot in the fourth inning cleared the eight-foot-high center field fence with room to spare and gave the Royals a 9-0 lead. It traveled an estimated 265 feet and made Wren just the 14th high school player to clear the 225-foot Parkland fence since the school’s softball field was built 18 years ago.
“Hitting is contagious,” Wren said. “Over the past couple games, we’ve been getting the lead in the first inning. I don’t really pay attention to how long a field is or how small a field is. I just try to put the ball in play. If it goes over, it goes over.”
Wren’s impressive postseason power surge began in Redeemer’s District 2 championship victory over Montrose, where she became the first high school player to hit a ball over the wall at the University of Scranton’s recently-renovated Magis Field with a 240-foot shot. She followed that with a two-run bomb that traveled about 250 feet the opposite way to right field to start the scoring in a 4-1 victory over Loyalsock in Monday’s state opener, proving it’s more and more difficult to find a playoff softball field that can contain the power of Wren.
“I don’t think any of them can,” Redeemer coach Jerry Paulukonis said. “There are probably baseball fields that can’t hold Tiana Wren.”
Meanwhile, Bienkowski was holding another opponent hitless.
The Binghamton-bound pitcher struck out the first 12 Spartans she faced before Springfield-Montco cleanup hitter Hannah Sebenick floated a single that dropped into center field to break up Bienkowski’s bid at a perfect game.
Then things got a little sloppy, as Sebenick’s courtesy runner advanced to second base on a wild pitch, moved to third base on an error and scored on McKayla Quinn’s grounder.
With Kaitlyn Cannon standing on third with one out, Bienkowski quickly snuffed out Springfield-Montco’s bid to nullify the 10-run rule and extend the game with two strikeouts to give her 14 punchouts among the game’s 15 outs.
“I think we got a little lax,” Bienkowski said. “It feels really good. You still have to do your job at all times. Even with a big lead like that, they still might come back. You ever watch the College World Series? It’s crazy. We got lax, people got satisfied.”
Rajza certainly wasn’t content.
Typically a singles slap-style hitter who uses a running start in the box toward each pitch reminiscent of former major league star Ichiro Suzuki, Rajza rolled out her gap power in the state quarterfinals.
She followed Bienkowski’s booming triple to lead off the game with a triple of her own that shot through the right-center field gap and rolled to the wall for the day’s first RBI.
Rajza later scored when McKenna Dolan beat out a two-out, infield single for a 2-0 Royals lead.
With two runners on in the second, Rajza laced another triple, a two-run drive to right-center, and scored on Wren’s solid single to left field. Wren later scored on a run-scoring single by Taylor Josefowicz for a 6-0 lead.
Then Rajza smoked a rising liner over the left fielder’s head for her third triple to open the fourth inning and scored ahead of Wren’s homer.
“Hitting on our team is definitely contagious,” said Rajza, who played on Redeemer girls basketball teams that reached the state semifinal round, two more state quarterfinals and the second round of states last year — along with starting on the Royals’ PIAA softball championship teams in 2015 and 2016. “We want to compete with each other, hitting better than each other. And we’ve just got to keep it going for the whole game.”
As a result, the Royals kept going around the bases. Rajza finished with three RBI and, along with Bienkowski, scored three times and Lynzie Skoronski scored twice.
All that offense and Bienkowski’s pitching brilliance earned the Royals (19-2) a date with North Schuylkill in the state semifinals Monday.
”It’s fantastic to see them all come around,” Paulukonis said. “They’re starting to peak right now.”
PIAA CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS
Holy Redeemer 11, Springfield-Montco 1
Holy Redeemer`241`31 — 0
Springfield-Montco`000`00 — 0
2B — Josefowicz, Bienkowski. 3B — Rajza 3, Bienkowski. HR — Wren.
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski