DuBOIS — The Penn State DuBois softball team experienced a little deja vu Monday in the PSUAC Tournament as it once again beat Hazleton in a one-run game before falling to Brandywine, 7-1 — a victory that gave Brandywine its fifth straight conference title.
DuBois didn’t know if the championship loss was its final game of the season or not, as the players and coaches anxiously waited for a couple hours for the USCAA Small College World Series Softball Selection Show.
It’s then the team learned it lived to fight another day, as DuBois earned an at-large bid for its first-ever trip to the World Series. DuBois will be the No. 9 seed in the event, which will be held at Heindl Field March 13-16.
“It was pretty emotional when we heard our name called at the team party we had for the selection show,” said Penn State DuBois coach Jason Kern. “It means the world to me (to get in) because of the girls.
“We told them from Day 1 we felt they had a team that could contend for the conference championship, and a team that could make World Series. And, now they have down both this season.
“But, to start 0-5 against two very good teams (Mississippi University for Women and Judson) and then go on to be 20-13 like we are now is a real testament to the hard work the girls and coaching staff have put in to make us better. Ironically, we play Judson (No. 8 seed) in our first game at the World Series.”
Mississippi University for Women is making a return trip to DuBois for the World Series and will be the No. 3 seed.
As for the games Monday, DuBois found itself in another tight battle with Hazleton in the first day. And, it was even closer than Sunday’s matchup that DuBois rallied to win 5-4 with five runs in the top of the fifth.
Monday’s matchup was scoreless entering the fifth as DuBois’ Lizzy Scott and Hazleton’s Madison Clark battled it out in the circle.
Scott allowed just one hit and three base runners through four innings and stranding all three of those runners in scoring position — two in the bottom of the third.
Clark, the East Division Pitcher of the Year, looked more like an award-winning pitcher than she did in Sunday’s loss. Clark limited DuBois to two hits and two walks while striking out eight through four innings. She used one of those strikeouts to strand a pair of runners in the third.
DuBois’ Cayleigh Huffman blasted a one-out double center in the top of the fifth, but she never moved from there as Clark got a pair of flyouts to keep it a 0-0 game.
Hazleton finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth against Scott.
Nicolette Kessler hustled out a bunt single with one out quickly stole second. Scott then struck out Sky Esterly, but Jaclyn Hess delivered a clutch two-out single to right to plate Kessler to put Hazleton up 1-0.
DuBois answered right back — just like it did in Sunday’s game — this time getting a single to tie the game in the top of the sixth.
Kayleigh MacTavish and Laura Fatula led off the inning with back-to-back singles and were bunted up a base by Skylar Ceprish. That set the stage for Sam Satterlee, who dropped a single into center field to score MacTavish to make it 1-1.
DuBois looked to have Clark on the ropes a little, but she promptly helped herself when she caught a bunt popped up by Cierra O’Shell and fired to first to complete an inning-ending double play.
Hazleton could do nothing with that momentum though as Scott recorded a quick 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth as the game went to the seventh still tied.
Clark opened the top of the seventh with a strikeout but then walked Huffman. Harvey got down a sacrifice bunt to move Huffman to second with two outs. Makenzie Lukehart then stepped in and singled to left, but Kern had to hold Huffman up at third with the outfield playing shallow.
Needing another hit to score, DuBois got it from MacTavish, who smacked a single down the right field line to bring home Huffman with the go-ahead run. Clark ended the rally there, but the damage had been done.
DuBois then flashed some leather in the bottom of the seventh to finish off the win for Scott.
Hazleton’s Cassandra Passamonte led off the inning with a high popup into shallow left field. Ceprish (shortstop) and Lukehart (left fielder) collided hard on the play, but Ceprish held on to the ball to make the catch as both players crashed to the ground.
Jerrika Chorba followed with an infield single to give Hazleton some life, but Scott got Nicolette Kessler to pop up to Harvey at second for the second out. That brought pinch-hitter Mackenzie Joy to the plate and she hit a flare out towards shortstop that looked like it might drop in.
However, third baseman Satterlee hustled over to make a diving catch on her knees for the final out to end send DuBois to the title game against Brandywine.
Scott went the distance in the circle, allowing one earned run on four hits while striking out five and walking just one.
After a short break, DuBois struck first in the championship game with a run in the top of the first inning against Brandywine starter Cara Fabiano.
Lukehart jump-started the inning with a one-out double to right-center. She went to third on a single by Fatula, then scored when Ceprish followed with a single of her own.
Fabiano halted the DuBois rally there, though, as she got a popup to short to strand runners on the corners.
Brandywine answered right back with a run in the bottom half, thanks in large part to the speed of Arianna Segich. She drew a leadoff walk, then stole second and third before scoring on a two-out single Alyssa Sullivan.
Segich was a thorn in DuBois’ side all tournament, as she scored four runs and stole six bases despite having just two hits.
DuBois tried to counter in the second, getting two-out singles by Huffman and Harvey before Fabiano got out of the inning with a groudout. The Brandywine righty settled in after that and allowed just one hit — another single by Huffman in the fifth — and three base runners over the final five innings.
With Fabiano holding DuBois at bay, Brandywine slowly found ways to pull away from DuBois.
It capitalized on a huge two-out error by DuBois in the third to score two unearned runs to make it 3-1. DuBois pulled Scott in the third and went to Harvey, who earned the save in Sunday’s win against Hazleton.
Harvey promptly got DuBois out of a bases-loaded situation to keep it 3-1, but another DuBois error in the fourth allowed Brandywine to take on another unearned run to push its lead to 4-1.
Brandywine finished off its fifth straight conference championship with a three-run sixth. The big blow was a two-run triple off the bat of Morgan Meoli that set the final score.
Hazleton (No. 7 seed) and Brandywine (No. 10 seed) both will return to DuBois for the World Series, as the division foes will be pitted against each other in an opening day matchup. They split the four games they played in the regular season.
“Today was almost a duplicate of yesterday (Sunday) with how the games went,” said Kern. “And, the title game was almost a mirror image of last night (Sunday). We committed some errors and threw the ball away.
“Against a good team like Brandywine, you just can’t do that. And the game plan was to not let (Segich) get on base because when she does, she scores. We tried to implement a defense against her, but I give her credit. She’s a good player and they are a very good team and did what they had to do to beat us.
“But, I couldn’t be more proud of our girls for what they have done this year.”