All the good fortune that Nanticoke Area had been riding through the state softball playoffs took a sudden turn for the worse.
And that dramatic twist of fate helped rearrange the Trojanettes’ hopes of playing for a state championship during an 11-0 loss to Bethlehem Catholic.
They say good teams make their own breaks.
But there isn’t much you can do when the ball is breaking the other way all the time.
It was enough to finally break the back of a proud and gallant Nanticoke Area team, which reached the PIAA Class 4A semifinals after an opposing runner left third base too soon in one game the Trojanettes went on to win in 14 innings and Madison Stashak came back into another state game to deliver the winning single in the ninth.
They didn’t come anywhere near extra innings in the semifinals Tuesday because destiny deserted the Trojanettes right from the first inning.
Brinley Sobeck, Nanticoke Area’s third hitter of the game, launched a shot long enough to clear the left-field fence. But it sailed well foul and Sobeck was eventually called out on strikes.
Nanticoke Area’s Megan Murphy unloaded a similar blast down the left-field line that had the Golden Hawks holding their breath before curling foul in the sixth inning.
Rather than rattle Bethlehem Catholic pitcher Tatum Kresley, those fouls allowed her to make up for some mistake pitches.
“Some of their hitters, I saw their confidence,” Kresley said. “That got my confidence up. I just tried to throw it not where they had hit it. I just stayed relaxed.”
And in the fifth frame of a 2-0 game, Miranda Bohn didn’t quite get enough of her attempt to tie the game with a runner on base, as her long fly to deep left field settled into the glove of the Hawks’ Jaden Spigner.
“It’s part of the game,” Nanticoke Area coach Ryan Stetz said. “We hit the ball as well as we had all year.”
On the other side, Bethlehem Catholic was doing pretty well with its own karma being kind.
Addie Roche’s double fell inches inside the right field foul line and just out of reach of diving Nanticoke Area outfielder Jen Kurkoski to produce the game’s first run in the second inning. And the Hawks added a second run when Kresley sliced a double that dropped just fair down the left-field line before she came around to score in the fifth.
Those luckless little jabs that left the Trojanettes behind by a bit turned into a flood of big blows during Bethlehem Catholic’s nine-run seventh inning that put the game out of Nanticoke Area’s reach.
Mainly because of a girl who didn’t even reach base in that inning. Or the game, for that matter.
Yet, Bethlehem Catholic’s Morgan Christine helped wrap up the game when she fouled off 11 straight balls while sapping energy from Nanticoke Area pitcher Miranda Bohn before popping out back to the circle.
“It definitely wore her down,” Christine said. “I could tell she was getting frustrated the last couple pitches. I was trying to get a hit for my team. We definitely wanted to wear her down.”
It was already a 4-0 game by that point. But Bohn, who fanned seven batters and struck out Christine three times before that, couldn’t find anything to put another batter away. And five hits and seven runs after that, the Hawks had put the game away instead.
“I’m proud of Morgan,” Kresley said. “She hasn’t been hitting well lately. But I saw how she was fighting in there. That definitely drove us. That got us a little excited. That made us more determined to hit the ball.”
In the late innings, working under a hot sun, even the gallant effort of a pitcher as good as Bohn wasn’t enough to stop a bad ending for the Trojanettes that was highlighted by a memorable at-bat from a hitter who wasn’t swinging so good.
“Yeah, it started to get to me a little bit,” Bohn said. “I’m not sure if it affected me (physically). I wasn’t going to give up for my team. I was thinking, ‘Just focus on the next pitch, don’t let them hit it, try to win the battle.’ All the credit to that team. I wish them the best in the (state) championship.”
That’s where the Trojanettes were hoping to go, until the breaks that had befriended them through the state tournament turned around and went the other way.
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski