After struggling through a tough season as the smallest school in a highly competitive Lackawanna League Division 3, Old Forge used all of its resources to remain on top when it finally got to play against other Class A schools.
The Lady Devils captured the school’s fifth District 2 Class A softball championship in six years, 4-1, over top-seeded Susquehanna Tuesday at Mid Valley.
Old Forge used base running and fielding to take the lead, then got the hitting it was missing to break away and strong pitching to finish off Susquehanna.
The Lady Devils got contributions from veterans and newcomers alike to win a district title after going just 2-10 in division play. They did, however, win two regular-season crossovers against Susquehanna, which tied for second place in Division 4. Those games did not count toward division standings or district seedings, but they did show that the Lady Devils were far from underdogs.
Old Forge took advantage of Susquehanna’s tentativeness in the infield with an aggressive start against the Lady Sabers, who had reached the District 2 final for the first time in school history.
“They’re very aggressive on the bases. They always have been,” Susquehanna coach Joe Collins said. “We had a couple blunders. We weren’t in the right spots. We gave them the first couple.”
Old Forge had just three hits through six innings. It still took a 2-1 lead into the final inning when the rain, which had threatened to interrupt or shorten the game, subsided.
Tori Tansley, who contributed an outstanding game defensively at catcher, singled to left field with one out. It was her second hit and the third time she reached base.
Two of Tansley’s courtesy runners scored. This time, Kara White came on a two-out double off the left-field fence by freshman Kierstyn Breig.
For the first time in the game, the teams were separated by more than a run.
“It was an amazing feeling,” said Breig, who finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored. “ … We’ve been working hard in practice.
“We’re hitting and we’re ready to go.”
The Lady Devils got half of their six hits in the seventh against Susquehanna pitcher Micaela Rhone, who struck out eight but only one in the last 3 2/3 innings.
Senior shortstop Rhyan Barnic, the team’s top hitter, singled in Breig for the final run.
Pitcher Taylor Nemetz, another of the Old Forge seniors, took it from there. After Haley Aldrich led off the bottom of the sixth with a single for Susquehanna’s sixth hit, Nemetz retired the last six batters, including four straight strikeouts.
Nemetz had good timing for her six strikeouts.
The first came against leadoff hitter Miranda Groover with the bases loaded and the game tied, 1-1, in the second inning. Tansley picked up the pitch from the dirt and stepped on the plate to secure the strikeout and inning-ending force play.
Nemetz got her next strikeout to end the fourth inning with two more runners in scoring position. Then, it was two in a row with the tying run in scoring position and one out in the sixth. Finally, she strung together two more to keep the Lady Sabers down after the Lady Devils expanded their lead to three runs.
Freshmen Francesca Samony and Breig were a big part of Old Forge advancing nine extra bases in the first three innings with the ball still in the infield.
Samony went from first to third as Tansley’s courtesy runner on a Nemetz sacrifice in the first inning. She then scored from third when Breig drew a throw by advancing right to second after reaching on a bunt.
Breig scored the winning run after leading off the third with a walk. She stole second base, took third on a wild pitch and got even more creative in scoring the winning run. Breig wandered halfway down the line on a popup to first base and appeared ready to get caught in a rundown until the first throw of the play sailed wild, allowing her to come home.
Samony used her speed as the courtesy runner in the top of the first and then immediately entered the game defensively after one batter in the bottom of the inning. Her overhead catch in left field to start the second inning proved to be one of the game’s key plays when four of the next five Lady Sabers reached base but only one run scored.
Old Forge opens state play Monday against the District 4 champion.