ST. MARYS — Make it 3-for-3 when it comes to St. Marys All-Star Softball teams advancing to the state tournament.
The Minor League All-Stars completed that trifecta Thursday afternoon with a 10-0, 5-inning rout against Harborcreek in the Section 1 Tournament at Benzinger Park.
The victory was the team’s second in three days against the District 3 champs, as St. Marys knocked off Harborcreek, 6-2, in Tuesday’s winners’ bracket finals. The two teams are no strangers, as they meet in last year’s Section 1 Tournament in Cochranton. Harborcreek won the lone matchup a year ago, collecting a 15-4, 4-inning victory in the opening game.
With some of the same players on the field this time around, St. Marys more than narrowed the gap in the matchup with its two convincing wins.
St. Marys’ offense pounded out 11 hits, with the the first three hitters — Molly Hanslovan, Gina Geci and Avery Eckels — combining to go 9-for-12 with five RBIs and nine runs scored.
All three finished with three hits. Geci finished a home run shy of the cycle while knocking in three runs and scoring three times. Eckels added two RBIs and two runs, while Hanslovan had three steals and four runs.
All that offense proved to be more than enough for Eckels, who was dominant in the circle. She allowed just one hit — a two-triple to Talon King in the fourth — en route to the shutout. She struck out eight and walked three.
The trip to the state tournament will be the first for all 12 members of the St. Marys squad. St. Marys opens state play Tuesday in Fleetville with a 7:30 p.m. game against the Section 8 champion.
They will join the league’s Junior League and Little League softball teams in competing at the state level this summer. The St. Marys Juniors are in the winners’ bracket finals today in Berwick after opening 2-0, while the Little League All-Stars have rebounded with two straight victories after an opening-loss in Thorndale.
“They played excellent tonight,” said St. Marys manager Matt Eckels. “I can’t believe it, but there were no nerves today. They were ready to go. They put the pedal all the way down, and they never looked back. It was really cool, and I’m very proud of them.
“This was nice a little revenge series we had with them (Harborcreek), and it was nice to win this in front of the home crowd. We had great fan support, and all the parents are really on board with what’s going on. There’s a lot of great support here.”
“There’s going to be a lot of purple (St. Marys team color) all over the Little League website,” added Eckels about all the teams’ success this summer. “It’s pretty cool to see.”
St. Marys was once again the visitors against Harborcreek, and just like Tuesday, jumped out to a quick lead in the top of the first. St. Marys scored three runs in the first matchup and managed to push two across Thursday afternoon.
Hanslovan led off the game with an infield single, then promptly stole second. She scored two batters later on a single by Eckels. Ava Villella came on to run for Eckels and quickly swiped second before taking third on a wild pitch.
Kaylen Eozzo followed with a walk, while an infield single up the third-base line by Calleigh Buzard loaded the bases. Bailey Thorwart then drew a walk to force home Villella to make it 2-0 before King struck out two in a row to leave the bases loaded.
St. Marys tacked on two more runs in the second.
hanslovan got things started with a one-out infield single and took second on the play when a late throw to first was off the mark. Geci followed with a double to center that plated Hansovlan. Geci raced around to score as well after the ball was mishandled in the outfield to give St. Marys a 4-0 lead.
That four-run advantage proved too much for Harborcreek to overcome.
Harborcreek managed to put runners on in just two of the five innings.
Aisling McFadden drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the second, and special-pinch runner Arianna Denning stole second. However, Eckels stranded Denning there.
Harborcreek mounted its biggest threat in the fourth.
Brooke Przybylski drew a leadoff walk. After Hayley DeAngelo hit a soft liner to Eozzo at first for the first out, Przybylski stole second. However, Buzard then gunned down Przybylski trying to steal third as well.
That play proved key as King followed with a triple to right-center field. McFadden then drew her second walk of the game, but eckels ended the rally there with a strikeout to end the inning. She struck out four of the final five batters she faced.
As for St. Marys, it invoked the mercy-rule by scoring four times in the fourth and twice more in the top of the fifth.
Hanslovan reached on an error to open the fourth, then stole second before scoring on a single to center by Geci. After Geci stole second, Eckels singled to center to put runners on the corners.
Eozzo kept things rolling with a single of her own to plate Geci to make it 6-0. Eckels scored on a groundout by Buzard, while eozzo later sprinted home from third on a wild pitch to put St. Marys up 8-0.
St. marys used a two-out rally in the fifth to end the game early.
Hanslovan again was in the middle of things, as her two-out single to left jumps-started the rally. Geci followed with a RBI triple to center, as the ball took a bad hop off the lip of the outfield grass and deflected hard off the center fielder, who remained in the game.
Eckels followed with a single of her own to center to put her team up 10-0 before retiring the side in order in the bottom half of the inning to finish off her shutout.