BLOOMSBURG - Inside Warrior Run coach Garth Watson was smiling and chuckling. Maybe not school-age girl giggling, but more like a tempered and unbelievable feeling of 'Here we go again' that elicits a quick laugh. Outwardly, Warrior Run's third-base coach remained rather emotionless as he watched Annville-Cleona intentionally walk the Defenders' leading hitter Tay Parker.
It was a scene Watson watched play out throughout the season. Teams would look at the diminutive but powerful Parker in the batter's box and her impressive numbers that include a .600-plus batting average and 40 RBI. Then they'd glance at the on-deck circle and see Jackie Clemens and typically decide to take their chances with her. More often than not, though, teams and Watson watched Clemens come through with big hit after big hit.
That is why Watson felt so relaxed when the left-handed hitting Clemens stepped into the box. She's been there and done that, and she did it one more time on Monday.
This time Clemens, a junior first baseman, calmly hit a two-RBI double as part of a 13-run third inning that brought plenty of outwardly smiles as the Defenders handled Annville-Cleona, 14-4, in five innings during a first round PIAA Class AA softball playoff game at Bloomsburg University and added another program first to an already historic season - a first PIAA playoff win.
"It was hard for me to stand on third and not grin," said Watson. "This was a key opportunity and it wasn't like it was the first time she's seen it. We have faith in her and that is why she is in our four-hole.
"When they walked Taylor to load the bases, I was like 'Here we go' and then she hit a missile up the middle there."
The Defenders (22-2) will play District 1 champion Christopher Dock on Thursday at a place and time to be determined.
Warrior Run, which was shut out in its only other PIAA playoff appearance earlier in the 2000s, fell behind the District 3 runner-up, 1-0, after 2 1/2 innings before putting together an inning few will forget.
On a unseasonably cold day in early June, Warrior Run remained warm on the basepaths in the third inning. The Defenders sent 16 hitters to the plate in the 13-run outburst, including 13 consecutive hitters before the Dutchmen (17-7) recorded an out. Carisa Swartz, Warrior Run's lone starting senior, started the inning with a single and she tied the game at 1-1 after leadoff hitter Gabby Shrawder turned on a Chrisi Lercher pitch and laced it down the left-field line for a double.
Laura Bastian, who reached on a bunt single, gave her team the lead when her slide into home distracted the catcher enough to force her to drop a ball fired on target and in plenty of time from shortstop Casey Ditzler. Clemens' double made it 4-1 and the inning continued on with RBI hits from Katy Swartz and Lynn Vermilya. Parker drove home the 13th run with a sacrifice fly.
"I'm used to it," said Clemens on the intentional walk to Parker prior to the first of her two doubles. "They've been doing it now for a while with a lot of teams, so it's not really a surprise to me anymore."
Annville-Cleona committed three errors in the inning that included a pair of walks, a hit batter and eight hits.
Warrior Run struggled to close out the game in the top of the fifth inning, as Parker hit two batters and walked another as part of a three-run Dutchmen inning that avoided the 10-run rule after 4 1/2.
"Last year we came up here and stubbed our toe and we stubbed it again a little bit today, but at least today we put our shoes back on, sort of speak," said Annville-Cleona coach Dave Bentz, whose team was shut out 10-0 by District 4 champion Central Columbia last year. "We battled a pitcher that throws nice and if you get one of them you can go a long way. I expect they'll make some more movement through the bracket."
The mini-rally put a small dent in Warrior Run's lead and gave Clemens another opportunity to show why she is the Defenders' clean-up hitter. Devin Nicholas led of the bottom of the fifth with a walk and after a pop out, Clemens solidly hit a ball to the left-center field gap that scored Nicholas and ended the game after five innings.
Clemens finished 2 for 4 with two doubles and three RBIs. She hit the ball sharply in all four at-bats, flying out to deep center in the first and hitting a hard grounder to second for the second out in the third-inning outburst.
"This is amazing," said Clemens, "just because it's not just the soccer team that is doing it, it's the Warrior Run softball girls that are doing it, too."
Carisa Swartz was 3 for 3 and scored two runs from the No. 8 spot.
Warrior Run sent seven hitters to the plate in the first two innings against the off-speed throwing Lerchen before nearly batting around twice in the third.
Parker, who wore a long-sleeve shirt underneath her No. 27 jersey, struck out nine and did a admirable job of holding Annville-Cleona to one run through three innings. The Dutchmen put their first two runners on base in the second inning and had second and third with one out before Parker dug deep and picked up back-to-back strikeouts looking. In the third, a passed ball allowed Annville-Cleona to break through, but for the second consecutive inning it left two runners on base as Parker ended the inning with another strikeout looking.
Annville-Cleona001 03 - 4 4 3
Warrior Run00(13) 01 - 14 12 1
Chrisi Lerchen and Haley Hirn. Taylor Parker and Lynn Vermilya. W - Parker. L - Lerchen.
Top Annville-Cleona hitters: Kaylynn McKinney 2-2, 2 RBIs. Top Warrior Run hitters: Gabby Shrawder 2b, RBI, 2 runs; Jackie Clemens 2-4, 2 2Bs, 3 RBIs, run; Carisa Swartz 3-3, 2 runs.
Records: Warrior Run 22-2, Annville-Cleona 17-8. Next: Warrior Run vs. TBD, Thursday.