TURBOTVILLE The Warrior Run softball team made school history during its march to an 18-2 regular season. The Defenders won the program's first HAC-II championship and opened the season with the school's first victory against Central Columbia.
Warrior Run defeated the Blue Jays again later in the season, but when the District 4 Class AA brackets were released and a possible third meeting with Central Columbia loomed there was some uneasiness just not in the Defenders' dugout.
"We were all excited for this game," said Warrior Run pitcher Tay Parker. "We had a lot of confidence that we could win this game and really wanted to win this game."
Those with a little less confidence in the Defenders mentioned the Blue Jays' pedigree. Central Columbia was the defending District 4 champions and were already playoff tested having to win games late in the season to qualify for the postseason and owning a first-round victory over Columbia Montour Vo-Tech.
And then there was Warrior Run's lack of playoff success that included a surprising exit at the hands of Troy during last year's quarterfinals.
Pedigree and past disappointments were quickly forgotten in the bottom of the first inning as the Defenders batted around, scored five times and turned the game over to Parker who delivered another solid outing in Warrior Run's 5-1 win over the Blue Jays.
Warrior Run (19-2) will play No. 5 Bloomsburg, a 4-0 winner over Towanda, on Tuesday at Elm Park in one District 4 Class AA semifinal.
The Defenders attacked Central Columbia starting pitcher Brianna Taylor early in the count in the first inning and Gabby Shrawder singled on the game's first pitch. The first of two Central mistakes in the initial inning put runners at first and second when the Blue Jays attempted to get the lead runner off a Devin Nicholas grounder, but the throw from the second baseman pulled the shortstop off the bag. Parker loaded the bases with an infield single and Jackie Clemens hit a sharp grounder to first that knocked down the fielder and didn't allow a play to be made.
Katy Swartz continued the aggressive approach and had the biggest hit of the inning a two-RBI double into left-center field that scored Nicholas and Parker for a 3-0 lead.
"She pitched a couple of first strike pitches right down the middle and I just locked in and there it went," said Swartz.
"Her and Jackie, the No. 4 and No. 5 hitters, have ignited this team," said Warrior Run coach Garth Watson. "Everybody knows what Tay is all about and Jackie and Katy have come up huge."
Katy Swartz finished 2 for 3 and was on base on three times.
Carra Rishel added an RBI single and a Carisa Swartz grounder was misplayed to allow the final run to score as 10 Warrior Run batters visited the plate in the first inning and five scored.
"We were very sluggish," said Central coach Duane Ford. "We felt good coming in here. She (Parker) was sharp and we weren't."
Leading 5-0, the Defenders turned the game over to Parker. The junior was perfect through 5 1/3 innings before surrendering back-to-back hits in the sixth inning, including an RBI double to Brooke Clarke.
"We knew they were going to hit the ball and we really didn't get rattled about it there," said Watson.
Parker finished with nine strikeouts, including two in the final inning.
"She was snapping the ball today and threw as good today as she has all year," said Watson.
Parker's defense was strong and kept her perfect game intact in the fourth inning when senior shortstop Carisa Swartz made a backhand stop in the hole between short and third base and completed the play with a strong throw to first to retire Clarke, who was leading off the fourth inning.
The play kept the deep Central lineup from gaining any momentum like it did when the teams played in Almedia and the Blue Jays nearly rallied from a 7-1 deficit before falling 9-7 in a game played in the rain.
Central Columbia000 001 0 1 3 3
Warrior Run500 000 x 5 6 0
Brianna Taylor and Lindsey Johnson. Tay Parker and Lynn Vermilya. W Parker. L Taylor.
Top Central Columbia hitter: Brook Clarke 2B. Top Warrior Run hitters: Katy Swartz 2-3, 2B, 2 RBIs; Carra Rishel 2-3, RBI.
Records: Warrior Run 19-2, Central Columbia 13-9.