BERWICK — The St. Marys Junior League All-Stars had their backs up against the wall Sunday against Pittston in the Pennsylvania State Championship game at Ber-Vaughn Park Monday.
The team, that is no stranger to big games, came through when it matter most, as St. Marys secured a 5-3 victory in the winner-take-all championship game.
St. Marys entered Monday’s play as the lone undefeated team in the tournament, as it had two chances to claim the title.
Pittston was able to win its third straight elimination game in the opener, defeating St. Marys 6-4 to force the ‘if-necessary’ game.
In the second game, St. Marys was able to take advantage of three straight errors by Pittston in the field on its way to a five-run bottom of the third.
That proved to be enough, as it rode a strong performance in the circle from Kendall Young and a handful of great defensive plays to the victory to claim the state title.
“I knew we had the team to do it, it was a hardworking group and this a group that a lot of these girls we’ve been working with since that first year when they were nine years old,” St. Marys manager Bob Young said. “This year was tougher than last year and we definitely had the tougher side of the bracket, we had no easy games.”
With the momentum of the opening game win, Pittston got off to a strong start in the decisive game, scoring a run in the top of the second to take the lead.
Cassie Hintze and Kallie Booth got the inning started with back-to-back singles, before both runners moved up a base on a groundout to short by Gianna Adams.
Jenna Collins then laid down a sacrifice bunt back to Young in the circle, as Hintze came in to score the game’s first run when the throw went to first.
The game remained 1-0 into the bottom of the third before St. Marys put up a five spot to take its first lead of the day between the two games.
After a strikeout got the inning started, Olivia Eckels hit what appeared to be a routine ground ball to short.
Instead the throw was dropped at first base allowing Eckels to reach safely.
Julia Jones then hit a grounder to third, as the ball was misplayed allowing her to reach on an error as well.
Young followed with a pop up to second as the parade of errors continued when the ball was dropped allowing St. Marys to load the bases without a hit as Young was replaced at first by Jianna Gerg.
Kara Hanslovan then delivered the go-ahead hit, driving a pitch back up the middle for a single to score Eckels and Jones.
Hanslovan then moved to second on a fielder’s indifference before Shannon Kaiser delivered a two-RBI single of her own to bring home Gerg and Hanslovan.
There was some controversy on the play, as Hanslovan collided with Pittston catcher Ava Callahan before getting to the plate.
The home plate umpire immediately ruled an obstruction on the play, as Callahan was blocking the plate without the ball, allowing Hanslovan to score safely and give St. Marys a 4-1 lead.
Kaiser was able to make it all the way to third on the throw and play at the plate, as she then scored when Emily Mourer hit a groundout to second as St. Marys took a four-run lead after three innings of play.
Pittston was able to scratch across a pair of runs in the top of the sixth to cut the deficit in half at 5-3.
Callahan got things started with a single down the left-field line before moving up to third on a groundout for the second out of the inning.
Booth then singled to left and went to second when the throw went towards home to hold Callahan at third.
Adams followed with a big two-out hit, singling to left field to bring home both runners to trim St. Marys’ lead to two.
Pittston looked to continue its rally in the top of the seventh, as Isabella Giardina reached after being hit by a pitch with one out to bring the potential tying run to the plate.
Young responded by forcing a fly out to short and a pop up to short as Hanslovan made a shoestring catch for the final out.
“Honestly that first game I thought we were giving up a little and it felt like they (Pittston) were really ready to put the hammer down,” Young said. “It was gut check time and they delivered.”
In the opening game, Pittston also got off to a strong start, as Booth came through with a two-out, two-RBI single in the top of the first to give the away side the lead.
Pittston stretched its lead to 3-0 in the top of the third before St. Marys got on the board with a run in the bottom half.
Eckels led off wit ha triple down the left-field line as she later scored on a sacrifice bunt by Emma Sorg.
One run apiece in the fourth and fifth innings allowed Pittston to take a 5-1 lead.
St. Marys used another sacrifice bunt to bring in a run in the bottom of the fifth, as Gerg reached on an error and later scored on a bunt by Eckles.
The home side continued to rally in the sixth inning, as Lydia Anderson looked to start a big inning with a single to left.
Anderson was then replaced by special pinch runner Kaiser, as Callahan attempted to pick her off at first.
Instead the throw got away, as Kaiser broke for second, but came up short of the bag on her slide as she was tagged out for the first out of the frame.
Lindsay Reiter then drew a walk before Kaiser came back in to pinch run as Jones followed with a deep shot to left, that bounced off the top of the fence and back into play.
Jones ended up on second with a double, but Kaiser was thrown out at the plate for the inning’s second out.
Young then drove a two-run homer over the fence in left-center field to trim the deficit to one, but that was all St. Marys could muster in the late innings.
Pittston was able to add an insurance run in the top of the seventh to bring the final score to 6-4.
St. Marys then responded with its back up against the wall, winning the winner-take-all game 5-3.
“For the first for or five innings we had come out kinda flat and they (Pittston) were playing well,” Young said of his team’s first game. “We were down and I kinda thought we were out, but towards the end something sparked and even though we lost I felt like we had a chance.”
St. Marys will now begin play in the East Regional Friday in Orange, Conn.