With Warrior Run's leadoff hitter Gabby Shrawder standing in the batter's box, Bloomsburg's Alyssa Ziller knew there was no room for error. The Defenders had loaded the bases in the eighth inning with just one out and all they needed was one clutch hit.
Rather than a hit, Warrior Run got a break in another way. Ziller let go of a pitch with a 2-1 count and catcher Lea Rehm tried to quickly get her glove up to catch the high pitch to the outside.
Carra Rishel wasted no time standing on third base and took off for home, sliding underneath Ziller, who couldn't field the throw from behind the plate. The play gave the Defenders the 4-3 win on Wednesday at Elm Park and a spot in the District 4 Class AA finals against Mifflinburg.
It's the first time Warrior Run is in the District 4 Class AA championship game since 2001, the only other time it appeared in the finals.
"We're really, really happy. We've never been here before, we've never came this far," Warrior Run junior pitcher Taylor Parker said. "We didn't (think we'd be playing for a state appearance). We really want to go to states, so we hope it happens."
Warrior Run's offense clicked in the first inning thanks to Parker's deep shot into left field that Bloomsburg's left fielder dropped, allowing the Defenders to put runners on second and third. Jackie Clemens then singled into shallow center field to drive in both runners and put the Defenders ahead, 2-0.
Parker was uncharacteristic in the following inning, walking two batters and allowing two consecutive singles to allow Bloomsburg to tie the game. The Panthers sent six batters to the plate. The junior didn't allow more than four batters to appear in an inning the remainder of the game.
Parker struck out 10 and retired the side in order four times.
"I wasn't really hitting my spots," Parker said of her second inning struggles. "I just wasn't concentrating (and then got into my groove the next inning)."
Bloomsburg held a lead just once when Mallory Fry reached safely on a swinging bunt in the fifth inning. Catcher Lynn Vermilya then grabbed the slow roller and overthrew Clemens on first, allowing pinch-runner Hayley Bennett to safely score and give the Panthers the 3-2 lead.
Warrior Run responded in its next at-bat, when Clemens hit a sacrifice fly into center field that brought Parker home, who reached with a double down the left-field line.
"They don't get rattled too much. We can play from behind, we can run, too," Warrior Run coach Garth Watson said. "But they've put it together long enough that they know each other, they know what we can do when we have a good inning at bat, but we have to be a little more disciplined in the box."
Bloomsburg020 010 00-3 5 3
Warrior Run200 010 01-4 7 2
Alyssa Ziller and Lea Rehm. Taylor Parker and Lynn Vermilya. WP-Parker. LP-Ziller.
Top Bloomsburg hitters: Brittany Karpinski 1-4; Courtney Adamchick 1-3; Courtney Ehmer 1B, run; Kristina Kurelja 1-3; Mallory Fry 1-3, RBI. Top Warrior Run hitters: ; Taylor Parker 2-4, 2B, 2 runs; Jackie Clemens 3 RBIs; Carra Rishel 2-4, run.
Records: Bloomsburg 14-8, Warrior Run 20-2. Next game: Warrior Run vs. Mifflinburg, today, at Elm Park, 4:30 p.m.