MUNCY - The pain she feels is a constant reminder. But ironically, Muncy all-state center fielder Hannah Cole remembers little after injuring her wrist, wearing a sling and heading to the hospital last Thursday. That is probably just as well since it looked like her stellar career might end that day.
Cole woke up the next day, though, and the swelling went down. Only the pain remained. And with the playoffs approaching, pain was no match for this tough senior who already is a National Guard Reservist.
Cole returned Thursday in a big way, crushing a two-run, first-inning home run that paved the way for a 3-1 District 4 Class A quarterfinal win over St. John Neumann. Cole's home run, Amanda Kustanbauter's one-hit pitching and right fielder Jaylan Jones's tremendous defense sent the Indians (15-6) into Tuesday's semifinals at Elm Park against Southern Columbia.
Crystal Good of Muncy reaches first base, but is out for obstructing the throw to St. John Neumann first baseman Katherine Mertes Thursday at?Muncy. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"I don't even remember being walked off the field at all. It was like a blur. I was shaking apparently real bad, but I just wanted to go to bed that night,'" Cole said of the injury that occurred when she dove for a ball and had her wrist roll under her. "The pain is not going to stop me, definitely not. It's the playoffs and it's when you want everything to come together."
"We fight through the pain," Muncy coach Mallory Hafer said. "That's what the team is all about at this point and I think that home run put the team in a comfort zone."
Cole has put pitchers outside their comfort zone her entire career. After Crystal Good hit a one-out single, Cole came up and looked like she would be intentionally walked like so many other times this season. Instead, she had the green light on 3-0 and crushed an outside pitch high into the trees behind the right-field fence.
With one swing Muncy led 2-0. With one swing, Cole showed her wrist is just fine.
"I figured they were going to try and pitch to me," Cole said. "I thought it was going to be caught. Usually when I hit balls to right field they go really high and then come right back down so I was surprised it went out."
Neumann (10-11) pulled within 2-1 when Maddie Dincher scored on a third-inning, two-out error. The Knights tried to score on that same play, but Jones immediately made them regret it. The senior made a perfect throw to Good who caught the ball chest-high and made the easy tag for the third out.
Neumann never again advanced a runner past second base. Chelsea Risley, who had the team's only hit on a second-inning bunt, tried to ignite a sixth-inning rally when she belted what looked like would be a two-out single that would put the tying runs on base. Instead, Jones picked the the ball up on one hop and made another rocket throw to first that ended the inning.
"We were joking that we actually drew up a play where it bounced off the grass and right into her glove and we choreographed that to get the runner at first," Hafer said. "That was a heck of a play. Big defensive plays and big offensive plays are what keep the team moving as a whole. They see one person pick it up and then every person wants to pick it up for each other."
That mentality carried Neumann to its best season ever. The Knights, who had only nine players yesterday and nearly didn't have a season because of so few players reached the playoffs for the first time and played one of their best defensive games. The little team that could nearly made it to the semifinals, an impressive achievement for a group that is as banged up physically as it is tough mentally.
Senior pitcher Christina Mignot did not allow a hit after Cole's home run. She pitched a two-hitter and struck out five.
"That's the way they played every game," Neumann coach Ray Perchinski said. "I told them, 'I'm proud of each and every one of you. Be proud because what you girls did with what we had was amazing.'"
Kustanbauter pitched one of her best games. The sophomore, who threw a shutout against Neumann last March, walked five through three innings but never buckled and allowed no earned runs. After the third inning, Kustanbauter went to the bullpen, worked out the kinks and came back dominant.
She also featured a new look. Kustanbauter has worn a facemask all season while pitching but forgot to put it on before the fourth inning and never wore it again. All she did over those final four innings was allow no hits, no walks, retire 12 of 13 batters and finish with seven strikeouts.
"I couldn't find the strikezone at all at first and I was really wild so I pitched with one of my teammates and finally found it," said Kustanbauter who won her 10th game. "I finally felt like I was in control. At the beginning I thought it was going to be pretty rough and that it might not go so well, but at the end I was having a blast."
Dincher and Emily Sholder each reached base twice for Neumann while Dincher made some nice plays at third. First baseman Chelsea Risley also made an impressive sixth-inning catch, lunging down the line to grab the ball right before it hit the ground.
Neumann010 000 0-1 1 1
Muncy200 100 x-3 2 1
Christina Mignot and Rachel Danneker. Amanda Kustanbauter and Crystal Good. W-Kustanbauter, (10-4). L-Mignot, (9-10).
Top Neumann hitter: Chelsea Risley 1-3. Top Muncy hitters: Good 1-2, R; Hannah Cole 1-2, HR, 2 RBI.
Records: Muncy 15-6. Neumann 10-11.