Matt Whipple called Loyalsock's game Friday the Lancers' biggest of the year. He was right.
But every game Loyalsock plays for the remainder of the year is the biggest one it'll play. They Lancers need three wins in their final three games to qualify for the District 4 playoffs.
Step one of that quest completed.
Kay Kay Lupo hit a grand slam - her first home run - and Casey Ulmer added a mammoth three-run shot as the Lancers beat playoff-bound Mifflinburg, 13-9, in a highly entertaining but sometimes sloppy game at Short Park.
The Lancers are still alive at 8-10 this season and have a trip to Hughesville on Tuesday, followed by a home game with Jersey Shore on Thursday.
"We're not even worried about who's after (Hughesville). We're just worried about Tuesday," said Whipple, Loyalsock's head coach. "After (Thursday's loss to Warrior Run), this was the most important game of the season and they did what they had to do. Our next game is now the most important game of the season."
The Lancers played with a purpose yesterday, sending a message to Mifflinburg (12-5) with a two-run first inning and a five-run third inning to take a 7-1 lead. It seemed like every time Mifflinburg made a move to squash a Loyalsock rally or put one of its own together, someone in the Lancers' lineup made a play to keep things rolling.
Loyalsock had a 3-1 lead with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the third. Wildcats pitcher Allison Lloyd struck out the Lancers' eight-hole hitter on three pitches and got ahead of Lupo 0-2 and could see her way out of the jam. Lupo rifled a two-strike riser over the center-field fence for a grand slam, the first homer of her career.
"I was just looking for any pitch to hit and she gave me one inside and I just turned on it and took it," Lupo said.
"That was a big relaxing point. We had some breathing room," Ulmer said. "We knew if we gave up a couple runs we'd still be OK."
This season hasn't been just that easy, though, for Loyalsock. This is the team that's lost five games in extra innings, including Thursday's game against Warrior Run.
This is a team that with a five-run lead in the fifth inning last night - Mifflinburg's Brooke Wells made is 7-2 with a fourth-inning solo home run - committed four errors with two outs giving the Wildcats every chance to get back in the game. Ulmer could see her way out of the inning before it ever started until an errant pickoff throw allowed Nicole Brouse to score from third.
Lloyd followed the errant pickoff with a single before back-to-back errors scored another run and put runners on the corners. Sarah Stauffer roped a double to right-center field to drive in two runs ahead of Spirit Shiffer's RBI double to center field tied the score.
All of a sudden the comfortable six-run lead was gone. But there was no panic. Loyalsock jogged off the field as if its lead was still intact. Heads were up along with the spirits.
"For the most part we got a lot of great leaders they said let's get a couple," Whipple said. "They went out and got a couple and then got a couple more."
The extended inning Mifflinburg was gifted in the top of the fifth was given right back to the Lancers in the bottom of the inning when with two outs and a runner on first a fly ball was misplayed allowing Heidi Womeldorf to score from first base. Ashley Bair followed with a walk and Allie Pagana reached on an infield single to load the bases. A mishandled ground ball off the bat of Amanda Daneker scored two more runs to give Loyalsock a 10-7 lead.
And Ulmer, who pitched so well, delivered the exclamation point on the win when she followed that misplayed ground ball with a titanic three-run home run to left-center field on the first pitch she saw. The 13-7 lead was finally one that felt comfortable, although the Lancers didn't play like it. Ulmer delivered a 1-2-3 shut down inning in the top of the sixth and let her defense get two outs on the bases in the seventh to close out the first of the three wins Loyalsock needs to close out the regular season.
"This was definitely one of her better days. She was hitting all her corners. Location, speed, everything was on," Lupo said of Ulmer. "Her home run was pretty much the final thing where we knew we had the game in the books."
Mifflinburg100 150 2 - 9 13 4
Loyalsock205 060 x - 13 9 5
Allison Lloyd and Kelsey Crabb. Casey Ulmer and Amanda Daneker. W-Ulmer. L-Lloyd.
Top Mifflinburg hitters: Kelsey Crabb, 2-4, 2B; Allison Lloyd, 3-4, 2 runs; Brooke Wells, 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 runs; Sarah Stauffer, 2-3, 2B, 3 RBIs, 2 runs; Spirit Shiffer, 2-2, 2B, RBI. Top Loyalsock hitters: Ashley Bair, 2B, 2 runs; Casey Ulmer, 4-4, HR, 2B, 3 RBIs, 2 runs; Kay Kay Lupo, HR, 4 RBIs, 2 runs.
Records: Loyalsock (8-10); Mifflinburg (12-5). Next: Loyalsock at Hughesville, Tuesday.