JENKINS TOWNSHIP — Mother Nature has been the biggest winner so far at the 2019 Minor League Softball East Regional Invitational in Jenkins Township, but the teams finally got back on the field Thursday.
And, that was a welcome sight for St. Marys, which went 2-0 on the day to advance to Saturday’s regional final as the lone undefeated team. St. Marys had played just four innings (12-0 win vs. Vermont Monday) since the tournament began on Sunday.
Now the Pennsylvania state champs will get another well-deserved day off after beating both New York, 13-5, in its opening game Thursday morning before upending New Jersey, 2-1, in the winner’s bracket finals Thursday night.
New York bounced back to win its second game Thursday and plays Maryland in an elimination game today at 4 p.m. The winner of that contest faces new Jersey at 6 p.m. for the right to battle St. Marys for the regional championship on Saturday at 10 a.m. If needed, the if-necessary game would follow,
Having not played in two days, St. Marys came out strong with the bats Thursday morning and scored three runs in the top of the first on its way to building an 8-0 lead after the top of the fourth against New York.
Calleigh Buzard got things started with a one-out walk in the first and promptly scored when Molly Hanslovan triple to center field. Kaylen Eozzo then reached on an error that allowed Hanslovan to score.
Avery Eckels capped the inning with a single to left that plated Eozzo to put St. Marys up 3-0. Eckels
St. Marys added to its lead with a run in the second when Buzard drew a leadoff walk and stole second before eventually scoring. St. Marys then doubled its lead with a four-run top of the fourth, and did all that scoring with two outs.
Zoe Romanic jump-started the inning with a two-out single and scored from first on a double by Bailey Thorwart. Buzard followed with a single that chased home Thorwart, while scoring herself on a single by Hanslovan.
Eozzo kept the inning going with a single of her own before Eckels reached on an error that allowed Hanslovan to score to make it 8-0.
Up to that point, New York’s bats were silent against Eckels, who allowed just one hit and two baserunners through three innings.
Holding an 8-0 lead and scheduled to play two games on the day, St. Marys turned to Hanslovan in the circle in the bottom of the fourth.
Unfortunately for St. Marys, Hanslovan struggled to find the strike zone as she walked six batters and hit another while giving up a hit in what turned into a five-run inning that made it a game at 8-5.
New York got no closer though, as Eckels returned to the circle in the fifth and closed out the game with two scoreless innings. Overall, Eckels tossed five scoreless innings, allowing one hit while striking out nine and walking none.
St. Marys put the game out of reach with a five-run top of the sixth.
Romanic reached on an error to open the inning, then took second on a wild pitch and third on a passed ball. Buzard scored her with a one-out single. Hanslovan then reached on an error, while Eozzo walked to load the bases.
That brought Eckels to the plate, and she smacked a single that plated both Buzard and Hanslovan. Eozzo also scored on an error on the play, with Eckels making it to third.
Giuliana Muccio then reached on the fourth New York error in the inning, while Eckels came home on the play to set the eventual final at 13-5.
Eckels finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs, while Buzard and Hanslovan each had two hits and two RBIs in the victory.
After all that offense, the winners’ bracket finals turned into pitcher’s duel between Eckels and New Jersey’s Eliah O’Neil — a battle won by Eckels and her teammates.
Eckels tossed a two-hitter in the 2-1 victory. She allowed one earned run while striking out 10 and walking two. As for O’Neil, her defense let her down as she gave up two unearned runs on five hits while striking out five and walking none.
St. Marys scored single runs in the second and third innings on its way to victory.
Muccio ripped a one-out double in the second and was replaced by special pinch-runner Maddie Lanzel. Alexa Uhl then bunted Lanzel to third before she came home when Sidney Reider reached on a two-out error.
New Jersey got that run back in the top of the third when O’Neil ripped a one-out triple and scored when Hayley Bustos reached on an error. From there, Eckels retired 11 of the final 12 batters she faced, including six via strikeout. The lone blemish was a two-out walk in the fourth.
St. Marys countered with a run in the bottom of the third to take the lead for good at 2-1.
Buzard and Hanslovan hit back-to-back singles with one out, and Buzard scored from first when Hanslovan’s hit was misplayed in left field.
Hanslovan and Muccio each had two hits against New Jersey, with Muccio smacking two doubles.