Scott Stugart shrugged his shoulders. Wasn't much else he could do to offer up an explanation for South Williamsport's 3-0 loss to Northeast Bradford on Thursday.
The Mounties ran into a buzzsaw they really had no control over in their District 4 Class A semifinal softball game against the defending district champion Panthers. Northeast Bradford pitcher Chelsea Souto, the reigning Northern Tier League pitcher of the year, came within one out of tossing a perfect game at Elm Park. Although she had to settle for a one-hitter after South's Sarah March reached on a two-out bunt single, it was good enough to put the Panthers back into the state tournament, and good enough to give the Panthers an opportunity to defend their district title.
Northeast Bradford plays Bloomsburg in today's District 4 Class A final at Elm Park at 4:30.
Anna Steer pitches for South?Williamsport Thursday vs. NE?Bradford at Elm Park.
"I don't know if the couple days off hurt, but we didn't get our bats going as I had hoped," Stugart said. "She was a buzzsaw. She throws hard. She has a curveball she was right on spot with. She's a great pitcher and it showed."
Souto had thrown one other no-hitter this year, a month ago in a 4-0 win against Canton. But it was nothing like Thursday's stage with a state tournament berth on the line.
She pounded the outside part of the plate and South's hitters were never able to make the adjustment. She allowed just one ball to be hit out of the infield, a leadoff fly out to left field in the seventh inning by Rachel Floyd.
Souto struck out nine batters and induced seven ground ball outs.
"Tip your hat to the pitcher because we couldn't hit it square. It was a pop up, it was a weak ground ball, it was on the handle," Stugart said. "She moved it in, out, up and down. She started off early inside. We adjusted and she went back outside. We tried to keep up with her, but hats off to their coaches who kept adjusting to us."
Northeast Bradford's two run-scoring innings were kick-started by the bottom of the Panthers' lineup. First it was Julie Williams hitting a one-out single in the bottom of the third and coming around to score on Maddy Johnson's triple to the left-center field gap. Johnson scored on a botched run-down play after a botched squeeze bunt. Johnson broke for home and the throw to the plate hit her in the helmet, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Eight-hole hitter Angelia Laudermilch got a rally started in the fifth with a leadoff single and she moved to second on an error. Two batters later, Makalylah Holbert singled to center field to score Laudermilch.
The 3-0 lead was a mountain to climb as Souto didn't allow a baserunner until South Williamsport tried getting rallies going in the seventh with bunts. Jourdan Boehmer was thrown out trying to bunt with one out, and March laid down a perfect bunt in front of the plate to break up the perfect game and no-hitter with a single.
"We tried a couple times during the game. All the ones leading up to that either went foul or went back to the pitcher," Stugart said. "If you bunt back to the pitcher you might as well turn around. It's not going to work. Our bunts weren't effective. It's been a strong part of our game, too."
South Williamsport000 000 0 - 0 1 2
Northeast Bradford002 010 x - 3 6 0
Anna Steer and Sarah March. Chelsea Souto and Angelia Laudermilch. W-Souto. L-Steer.
Top South Williamsport hitters: Sarah March, 1-3. Top Northeast Bradford hitters: Maddy Johnson, 1-3, triple, RBI, run; Makaylah Holbert, 2-3, RBI; Souto, 1-3; Angelia Laudermilch, 1-2, run; Julia Williams, 1-2, run.
With runners in scoring position: South Williamsport 0-0; Northeast Bradford 1-6.
Runners left on base-in scoring position: South Williamsport 1-0; Northeast Bradford 4-2.
Pitches-strikes: South Williamsport, Anna Steer 79-51. Northeast Bradford, Chelsea Souto 89-62.
Batters faced-first pitch strikes: South Williamsport, Anna Steer 25-11. Northeast Bradford, Chelsea Souto 22-18.