If the game had been at home instead of at Montoursville, the South Williamsport softball players might have thought they were living a replay. Another nightmare ending was unfolding.
Nearly a month ago, Montoursville erased a 4-run deficit and defeated the Mounties late. Monday, the Warriors turned a three-run deficit into a one-run lead after five innings. As South gathered before batting in the sixth the message was pretty succinct. Not this time.
"We were a little worried at first but we pulled it together and all got up and helped each other out," South third baseman Kelsey Gantz said. "People got mad and we wanted revenge."
Montoursville shortstop Payton?Lynch comes up empty-handed on a single by Kelsey Gantz of South Williamsport in the third inning Monday at Montoursville. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
They exacted it too. Gantz hit a sacrifice fly and Alanna Herrera drilled a clutch two-out, two-run double as South scored three sixth-inning runs and rallied for a 7-5 win. Gantz went 3 for 3 and Anna Steer retired three of Montoursville's best hitters, each representing the tying run, to clinch South's fourth straight win.
"When things start going wrong you start pressing sometimes and think you're going back into it but they came back immediately that next inning and that was huge," South coach Scott Stugart said. "You hate to give it up once you got that lead and for them to come back after that (fifth) inning, I could not be happier with their effort."
Montoursville (7-7, 6-5 HAC-II) won 6-4 in the first meeting after overcoming a 4-0 deficit. Yesterday, the Warriors erased 3-0 and 4-1 deficits as the local rivals produced another exciting game in a series filled with them. Over the past three years, South and Montoursville have played six times and all but one game has been decided by two runs or fewer.
"We just love having good games where the games are fun to coach and your kids are fun to watch play because they don't quit and they battle back," Montoursville coach Mike Tate said. "Give South credit. They kept battling back just like we did. Scott has a good young team and they are well-coached and it showed. They're not quitters either. They keep coming back too."
Montoursville scored two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings, taking the lead when Hanna Cioffi, after hitting a lead-off triple, scored on Payton Lynch's squeeze bunt. But South did not buckle. After catcher Kelsey Stine caught a popped up bunt to start the inning, Lizz Cummings (2 for 4) and Alana Stugart (2 for 3) singled before Kalynn Wheeland was intentionally walked.
Gantz singled in her three previous at-bats, making it 4-1 in the fourth inning with her latest single. This time, the streaking junior did not deliver a hit but did just as much damage, driving a deep flyball to center field that scored Cummings and tied the game.
"When they walk (Wheeland) the pressure is on me but I don't mind it," Gantz said. "I'm ready to hit and do what I can."
Herrera especially was eager to do showcase her skills when she dug in a batter later. The junior catcher was 0 for 3, had struck out twice and had stranded seven runners. None of that mattered as she came up in the sixth inning. Redemption was at hand.
Herrera took a strike before slamming a line drive to left field. Kourtney Phillips nearly made a sensational diving catch but the ball fell and two runners scored as Herrera raced into second, burying the images of those previous at-bats.
"It felt really good to redeem myself after those two strikeouts. Even Anna gave me a pep talk and it helped a lot," Herrera said. " I was putting myself down and she said I can do it and I did it. I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I just need to follow through with my swing and put everything together and hit the ball,' and I did."
Montoursville Lexi Marchioni hit a lead-off single and reached second on a throwing error in the seventh but Steer saved some of her best pitching for when it mattered most. The sophomore seemed to be brining something extra-Herrera said her left hand was still stinging afterward-and did not let another ball out of the infield, inducing two pop outs and a groundout to seal the win.
Steer scattered seven hits but Montoursville did not stay down after being down 3-0 in the third inning. A team that has made big comebacks a program staple scored in the third, fourth and fifth innings. A Cayla Treaster two-run double pulled Montoursville within a run in the fourth inning and the Warriors scored two more times in the fifth.
It was the third time this season, Montoursville overcame a deficit of at least three runs to tie a game or take the lead. This, after the Warriors scored seven seventh-inning runs to beat district finalist Milton 8-7 in its home finale last year. Janelle Konkle had two hits and eight players reached base yesterday.
"We have a little more spunk with the bats this year and do a good job putting the ball in play so they don't panic," Tate said. "We came up short this time but we battled back and it was a good game."
When South and Montoursville play, it almost always is.
South102 103 0-7 9 2
Montoursville001 220 0-5 7 2
Anna Steer and Alanna Herrera. Cayla Treaster and Kelsey Stine. W-Steer, (5-3). L-Treaster, (7-7).
Top South hitters: Lizz Cummings 2-4, 2B, 2 R; Alana Stugart 2-3, 2 R; Kelsey Gantz 3-3, 2 RBI, R; Herrera 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Steer 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI. Top Montoursville hitters: Janelle Konkle 2-4, R; Treaster 1-2, 2B, 2 RBI; Kim Foster 1-2, R; Hanna Cioffi 1-2, 3B, R.
Records: South 7-4, 6-3 HAC-II. Montoursville 7-7, 6-5.