BLOOMSBURG - Four days after Greenwood continued its storied run in the PIAA Class A playoffs with an upset win over District 4 champion Northeast Bradford in the quarterfinals, the Wildcats were dealt another team from that area.
The runner-up in District 4, Southern Columbia, had the same to offer the Wildcats in the Eastern finals: solid pitching and solid defense.
But Southern's pitcher Mallory Tomaschik was in the way.
Sentinel Photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Greenwood’s Jessica Heichel fields a throw from Greenwood catcher Anni Morrow in the third inning as Southern Columbia’s McKenna Lupold slides in safely in the PIAA Class A semifinal Monday at Bloomsburg University. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com.
Greenwood, after crawling back from a 5-run deficit after two innings of play, were no match for the Tiger hurler. Tomaschik went all seven innings, perfect through the first two, in shutting down Greenwood and ending the team's season. The historic run came to a halt with a 5-2 loss at Bloomsburg University Monday.
This was the farthest a Greenwood softball team has ever been in the PIAA playoffs.
"We didn't get the start that we wanted to," Greenwood coach Troy Gantt said. "At this point you have to play seven innings to get the win. We didn't put a full game together."
The Wildcats, unlike many teams after a season ends, refused to hang their heads. Smiles were still abundant following the loss. Greenwood senior Kendra Seaman, who had the team's first RBI in the game, couldn't be happier with how her team performed this season.
"We made Greenwood history by getting this far already," she said. "And I think we're just happy that we got to spend this much time playing together because we love each other."
Before Greenwood brought in Chelsea Hicks to throw the last five innings of scoreless softball, the Tiger hitters got to Jess Heichel. Southern Columbia scored all five runs over the first two innings.
The 2-3-4 hitters for the Tigers (Tomaschik, Kayla Lavella and Taylor Hoffman) went a combined 6-for-6 in the first two frames. They collected a total of four RBIs and scored four runs. But that wasn't all on Heichel's pitching.
The junior was just missing with her pitches and the Tigers were finding the exposed holes in the Wildcat defense. Many balls scooted through infield just out of the reach of Greenwood's gloves.
Nerves may have had something to do with it.
"It appeared that way," Gantt said after being asked about his team's nerves prior to the game. "I thought we looked pretty relaxed before the game and in warmups. We just didn't make a couple of plays that we have been making here in the playoffs."
Those plays weren't errors. But they were plays that this team has made time and again in its run in the playoffs.
Down five after two, Greenwood's bats would struggle to keep them in the game. Tomaschik kept Greenwood off balance and struck out a total of nine batters in the game.
"I think she was working both inside and out and was hitting her spots," Gantt said. "That's something we had trouble with early. All the credit to her, she did a great job in the circle."
With Tomaschik's brilliance against the Wildcat hitters, Gantt knew he had to limit the damage of the Tiger offense early. In came Hicks.
Hicks, who is a sophomore, pitched the final five innings allowing just four hits to keep Greenwood in the game.
"You can't ask for a tougher assignment to come in the Eastern finals and she hasn't pitched in about a dozen games," Gantt said. "She came in and really controlled their lineup. I thought she did a great job."
With Hicks firing on all cylinders, Greenwood needed to muster up some offense. That offense started in the fifth with Heichel.
The junior belted a single, her second of the game, and then moved to second on a passed ball. Anni Morrow then laid down a sacrifice bunt to put Heichel on third. Then it was a senior's time to shine.
Seaman hit a soft bouncer to short. With two outs, Seaman had to beat the throw to ensure the run. She did. The Wildcats were on the board.
In the sixth, after Hicks shut down the Tigers again, Brittany Fleisher led off with a single to center. Another senior's time to shine was up next.
A.J. Seigel, who has been red hot in the postseason, smashed a Tomaschik pitch to right that sailed past of the glove of Southern's right fielder. Fleisher scored easily and Seigel ended up at third.
"After A.J. had that hit I thought maybe we could come back," Seaman said.
But that was it. No more runs, no more hits. One of the most historic softball season's had come to an abrupt halt for Greenwood just before the state final.
The Wildcats, who were Tri-Valley League champions and District 3 champions, gave it all they had. And words to describe the run were not difficult for Seaman to come up with following the game.
"Amazing. Unbelievable," she said. "There are so many words to describe how this run has been."