Former Loyalsock and South Williamsport softball players lined the perimeter Tuesday at South as their alma maters played another thriller. They have graduated but this rivalry never dies. It just grows stronger.
Yesterday those graduates likely were wishing they could be on the field one more time. This game, though, belonged to players like Kayla Gee, Allie Pagana, Allison Czap, Anna Steer and Sarah March. It is their rivalry now and they are some of the players making it a great one.
Gee left the bases loaded in the sixth inning and threw a complete-game five-hitter while Pagana and Czap delivered clutch RBI hits in the seventh inning as Loyalsock scored six times, erased a one-run deficit and beat South, 8-3. Steer threw a great game for South and allowed only two earned runs while March doubled and tripled but Loyalsock's late-game heroics defined the game.
Loyalsock second baseman Ashleigh Bair avoids Sabrina Mussare of South and throws to first base for an out instead in the seventh inning Tuesday at South Williamsport. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"It's friendly competition because we're all friends with them. It's a good over-the-bridge kind of rivalry and it's a lot of fun playing them," said Pagana, who hit a game-tying seventh-inning single. "We just had to just pull through for everyone on the team."
"South played a really good game and they didn't deserve to lose that game but we did enough things to win and they showed a lot of heart, a lot of fight at the end and came through," Loyalsock coach Tom O'Malley said. "They really showed some character. They all contributed and all played hard and it was a good team win."
Loyalsock (9-1, 8-1) won its seventh straight and remained tied for first with Central Columbia in the HAC-II. The Lancers host Central Thursday. How the Lancers won Tuesday gives them a nice boost entering that game.
Alana Stugart's RBI infield single gave South a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth. The Lancers had the bottom of the order up, but Natalie Zicorello reached on an error before Kariann Reisch and Ally Kennedy both dropped sacrifice bunts and also reached on errors. That set the stage for Pagana, who ripped a game-tying single into right field.
Pagana earlier sparked a two-run fourth-inning rally that erased a 2-0 deficit and finished 2-for-3 with a walk.
"It's kind of both ways. I like being the person that people rely on, but yet again I get nervous," Pagana said. "There's a pit in my stomach but I pull through and get through it."
Reisch scored on a wild pitch seconds later and Loyalsock took its first lead, 4-3. Czap then belted a two-run single, capping a good day in which she went 2 for 4 with three RBIs. Amanda Daneker scored a run on an error following the hit and Czap came home on a wild pitch, capping a six-run inning in which Loyalsock delivered four hits and South made four errors.
South put two runners on in the bottom of the seventh, but Gee again excelled under pressure and induced a game-ending groundout.
"We're that close to being a great team, but we're not there yet. We have to be able to finish the game and we'll get there," South coach Scott Stugart said. "This group is focused on getting to the end goal. We're playing with everybody, we just need to finish."
Gee consistently finished under tough circumstances. March and Rachel Floyd hit an RBI double and RBI single, respectively in the first inning, giving South a 2-0 lead but Gee allowed just three more hits. She stranded Kelsey Gantz at second with no outs following a fourth-inning double and was especially tough in the sixth after March slammed a leadoff triple.
After intentionally walking Wheeland and Gantz, Gee had no room for error. She struck out the next batter before Stugart hit a chopper off her glove, scoring March. Gee came back strong and retired the next two, minimizing the damage and giving her team a good chance to win in the seventh.
The freshman pitcher continued her maturation. She is a talented pitcher who throws hard, but also is equally tough. Gee has been getting better every time she pitches and might have been the team's MVP yesterday.
"I just have to focus in on throwing strikes because I can't walk any since the bases are loaded so the pressure is on a little bit but I had to keep my composure," Gee said of the sixth inning. "I just had to calm down a little bit. They're a great team and it could have gone either way. We just came through at the end."
"It seemed like after she gave up those couple runs she really got into a rhythm and was very effective," O'Malley said "She keeps us in every game and I'm proud of the way she played and the way the rest of the girls played."
Stugart was, too. For six innings, the Mounties were brilliant, backing Steer with error-less defense. Floyd made two great catches, including one at the center-field fence in the fifth inning to rob Daneker of a go-ahead 2-run double or triple.
Steer, another freshman, threw one of her best games. Like Gee, she has shown tremendous progress and took a perfect game into the fourth inning against a team averaging more than 10 runs per game. She struck out six, pounded the strike zone and came back strong after Daneker and Czap hit consecutive singles in the fourth inning to tie it, 2-2.
"We pulled her aside afterward just to let her know that she rose to the occasion and pitched a great game," Stugart said. "They have a great offense and we escaped unscathed for six innings."
Steer and Gee could face off six more times the next three years. The names keep changing, but the rivalry keeps getting better.
Loyalsock000 200 6-8 8 0
South200 001 0-3 5 4
Kayla Gee and Amanda Daneker. Anna Steer and Sarah March. W-Gee, (6-1). L-Steer, (5-5).
Top Loyalsock hitters: Allie Pagana 2-3, 2 R, RBI; Daneker 1-3, RBI, 2 R; Allison Czap 2-4, 3 RBI, R. Top South hitters: March 2-4, 3B, 2B, RBI, 2 R; Kalynn Wheeland 1-2, RBI, 2 BBs; Kelsey Gantz 1-3, 2B.
Records: Loyalsock 9-1, 8-1 HAC-II. South 7-5, 4-5.