MIFFLINBURG - Pitching and defense once against took center stage as Mifflinburg and Warrior Run played the final of two regular season league games.
And much like the first time around, one run proved to be the difference between two of the area's dominant softball teams. But unlike the first time, extra innings weren't needed as a two-run second was enough for Mifflinburg to get past Warrior Run, 2-1. Mifflinburg's win knots both teams at the top of the HAC-II, with Warrior Run's Monday contest against Central Columbia now turning into a must-win.
"It's better we got that monkey off our back tonight," Warrior Run (12-1, 8-1) coach Garth Watson said of the team's first loss. "We didn't play bad ball, Mifflinburg was just a little bit better than us tonight."
It was an uncharacteristic outing for Parker, who went to full-counts against six of the 22 batters she faced on the day. But despite needing five or more pitches against 12 of the batters, Parker was able to get first-pitch strikes on 11 of the 22 Mifflinburg (12-4, 9-1) at-bats.
In the Wildcats' decisive bottom of the second, Parker opened with a six-pitch strikeout, but followed it up with a five-pitch walk. The mistake quickly compounded itself when Parker failed to control a hard grounder hit up the middle on the ensuing at-bat, giving the Wildcats their first runner in scoring position. Sara Stauffer, who benefited from the Defenders' first error of the day, quickly stole second to increase the pressure.
Parker battled back, a trait she utilized throughout the contest, getting McKenzie Noll to pop out to center field. The effort by Warrior Run's ace was impressive, but not enough to deny Mifflinburg as Taylor Young connected with her third pitch, scoring both runners and giving the Wildcats a one-run advantage.
"It was really important we got those runs back quickly," Mifflinburg coach Steve Ross said. "I told Sara Stauffer (the runner on second) she was going to have to get dirty, because they were going to throw home. That run was key."
Parker was tested again in the fourth when Stauffer got her second hit of the day, a short fly ball which landed just out of the reach of a running Katy Swartz. Despite not getting the fourth inning fly, Swartz grabbed two pop-outs, one of which prevented a runner from reaching second in the third inning.
Parker, facing just her fourth base runner of the night, tossed a first-pitch strike to Noll, eventually getting her to hit into a 4-6 fielder's choice. The final out of the fourth inning came from Parker, who zoned in to recover from a 3-0 count to get one of her game-high seven strikeouts.
Parker got into trouble in the final inning when a Jessica Brobst single and Brooke Walls walk gave Mifflinburg base runners with one out. A wild pitch advanced both runners, appearing to give the Wildcats a chance at more runs.
Once in trouble, Parker tapped into her reserves to record a six-pitch strike out followed by an inning ending groundout to Laura Bastian at second. Bastian has played with an injured hand throughout the season, only getting a few at-bats and having to play with a brace on her glove hand.
"I'm fine with it as long as I can play through it," Bastian said. "I jammed it in basketball and have been wearing a brace for support."
Alison Lloyd was up for the challenge of facing one the area's top pitchers and teams for a second time.
"She was tough in the circle," Watson said. "We needed to be a little more discipline in the box against her."
After giving up Warrior Run's lone run in the first inning, Lloyd was nearly untouchable the rest of the way, allowing two hits and getting four of her five strikeouts after the first inning.
"I really didn't say anything to them, I let them go out there and play the game," Ross said. "I really don't get loud with them. They are the ones here to play the game and we're here to help them."
Lloyd's best inning came after the Wildcats scored their two runs in the bottom of the second.
Once in front, Lloyd made quick work of Warrior Run in the top of the inning, retiring the Defenders in order with three pitches.
But that's not to say Warrior Run did not have chances at scoring the game-tying run. Besides the third and sixth, both innings in which the Defenders went down in order, Lloyd walked at least one batter as she walked four for the game.
The most pivotal of the walks came in the fifth when Ross intentionally walked Parker to put runners on first and second.
"I told my pitching coach I was not going to let Parker beat us," Ross said. "That's why we walked her. I told the catcher to get at the end of the box and told them Parker wasn't going to beat us."
Warrior Run 100 000 0-1 4 1
Mifflinburg 020 000 X-2 3 1
Taylor Parker and Lynn Vermilya. Alison Lloyd and Kelcie Crabb. WP-Lloyd. LP-Parker.
Top Warrior Run hitters: Parker 1-2, run. Top Mifflinburg hitters: Taylor Young 1-2, 2 RBI.
Records: Warrior Run 11-1 (7-1). Mifflinburg 12-4 (9-1).
Next: Warrior Run at Central Columbia, Monday, 4:30 p.m. Mifflinburg at Loyalsock, Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.