ST. MARYS — Morrisville and St. Marys squared off in a handful of hard-fought games the past two years at the Minor League All-Star Softball State Tournaments in Bradford and Wellsboro, respectively.
Those close encounters set the stage for a highly anticipated rematch Wednesday at the Little League State Tournament at Benzinger Park, and the two teams didn’t disappoint as they once again duked it out in six well-played innings.
Unfortunately for St. Marys, Morrisville bunched together all three of its hits in a two-run top of the fourth — an inning that proved to be the difference in a 2-0 victory.
The two runs proved to be enough for Morrisville starter Ainsley McClure, who outdueled St. Marys’ Kendall Young. McClure tossed a one-hit shutout, striking out seven and walking two. Young ended up the hard-luck loser, allowing two earned runs on three hits while striking out eight and walking one.
Morrisville is now 3-2 against St. Marys the past three years in state tournament play featuring players in the current squads. Four of those five games have been decided by three runs or less.
With Wednesday’s victory, Morrisville will now face Clearfield in Friday’s winners’ bracket finals. Clearfield knocked off Fairchance, 5-0, on Wednesday with its pitcher Emma Hipps firing a perfect game that featured 12 strikeouts.
“They’re a good team. You have to tip you hat to them,” said St. Marys manager Bob Young of Morrisville. “We expected this. We knew once you get here you’re going to see some hard teams, and you’re not going to see 8-0 and stuff like that. It’s going to be a hard-fought game.
“Their girls made some amazing plays (on defense). They had three hits, and we had two I believe. But, they had key hits with runners on base. We had runners on and couldn’t get them through. Both pitchers pitched well, and there really weren’t too many mistakes.
“That’s why we’re here though. We’re not here to 10-run rule teams. We’re here to see the best of the best. And, like I told the girls when we lost to DuBois in districts, it’s the same goal goal. It’s just a different path. Now we have to play a few more games, and it’s states, so there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Both offenses found the going tough against the opposition’s pitcher.
Young retired the first six batters she faced, recording three strikeouts in that stretch.
St. Marys put together the first threat in the bottom of the second.
Caitlyn Vollmer drew a one-out walk off McClure, then Olivia Eckels followed with a ground ball to second. Morrisville’s Molly Milewski elected to go to second after charging the ball, but Vollmer hustled into second to beat the throw.
Both runners would advance on a wild pitch, but McClure recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning with two runners in scoring position.
Morrisville collected its first runner in the top of the third when Milewski drew a one-out walk after Emma Hause lined out to Anna Mattivi in center. Special pinch-runner Brielle Crawford promptly stole second, but Young stranded her there with a strikeout and groundout.
St. Marys got its lone hit in the bottom of the third when Lindsey Reiter singled to center with two outs. She never moved from there, though, as McClure got Kara Hanslovan to ground out to end the inning.
Morrisville then broke through with two runs in the fourth.
Riley Mahoney led off the inning with a single to right and quickly stole second. katey Brennan followed with a single to left that scored Mahoney to make it 1-0. Brennan took second on an errant throw in from the outfield.
Young responded by fielding a comebacker, then recording a strikeout to leave Brennan at third with two away. However, Young hit Quinn McGonigle, which extended the inning for Hause, who ripped a single to left to plate Brennan to put Morrisville up 2-0.
That proved to be Morrisville’s final hit, as the Section 8 champs mustered just two more runners the rest of the way.
But, McClure made the two-run fourth hold as she allowed just one runner herself over the final three innings. Pinch-hitter Jianna Gerg drew a two-out walk in the fifth, but McClure stranded her there by getting Mattivi to ground out to end the inning.
While Morrisville and Clearfield get a day off before playing in the winners’ bracket finals, St. Marys is back in action today against Archbald in a losers’ bracket contest. Archbald stayed alive Wednesday with a 9-3 win over Caln.