MILL HALL - Central Mountain needed someone to lean on and get the job done in the bottom of the eighth inning. The score was locked at 4-4 against rival Jersey Shore on Senior Night. It seems obvious what type of player should step for the Wildcats...
Well, a sophomore, of course.
Emily Strouse wasn't expecting to play hero, especially since the Wildcats have a good core group of seniors in Jordan Kaler, Moriah Lindsey, Lauren Russell, Rachael Shady and Avery Shaffer. Late game heroics and leadership extra innings; that type of leadership belongs to the seniors, right?
Not Monday night.
With one out and Shady already in scoring position after a double, Strouse stepped to the plate. She just wanted to put the ball in play for a hit. Instead, she ripped a line shot to left field, landing just inside the foul line. Shady had more than enough legs to to make it home. After giving up a two-run lead in the top of the seventh, Strouse lifted her team back in to the lead and this time it was permanent. Her walk-off double put the final score at 5-4, getting Central Mountain a much-needed boost of confidence in an important late-season rivalry game.
"It was really awesome," Strouse said. "I was so happy. All I was looking for was a hit. I just wanted to hit the ball. I'm just glad I could help the seniors out and back them up when they needed me."
Central Mountain head coach Dave Peters couldn't have been more happy and relieved his team got the win. The Lady Wildcats' original Senior Night was rained out so the players had a choice of which team they wanted to play against for the make-up Senior Night game.
There wasn't any question who the Wildcats wanted.
"Jersey Shore is a quality team and we've had two close games with them this year," Peters said. "We know Jersey Shore is going to be one of the triple-A teams in District 4 that's going to be there in the end. They all said they wanted Jersey Shore. The players on both teams are friends and they like to compete against each other. We were ready to go today."
For the Lady Bulldogs, they had to feel the sting of defeat, coming out on the wrong end in a game played well by both squads.
A majority of this matchup was a pitcher's dual between Shady and Shore's Rebecca Caputo. Through three innings both pitchers gave up one run apiece and each run came off fielding, throwing errors.
In the bottom fourth, the Wildcats finally grabbed control of the game. Shady hit sacrifice fly to centerfield, scoring Bree Hilty and Kaler stole home off a pass ball. Central Mountain and Jersey Shore traded runs in the fifth. The Bulldogs' Kaitlyn Cowfer scored Jess Allen off a double to right-center, and the Wildcats' "Mo" Lindsey touched the plate, following a fielding error. Cowfer again came to the rescue in top of the seventh with two more RBIs off a single to right field, bringing in Lydia Yorks and Allen. Even though Shore would eventually come up one run short in the bottom of the eighth, Glenn's team showed its grit with the late rally and never giving up.
"I told them after the game they showed how resilient they were today," Glenn said. "This does nothing but prepare us for playoffs. We had a great week last week where we were coming off three games where we didn't give up a run. You're not going to be able to keep that up forever, you're going to give up runs, but its what you do after you give up runs."
JS 100 010 20 - 4 8 3
CM 100 210 01 - 5 9 4
Rebecca Caputo and Jessica Willits. Rachael Shady and Lauren Russell. WP-Shady. LP-Caputo.
Top Jersey Shore hitters: Jess Allen 3-4, 2B, 2 singles, Kaitlyn Cowfer 2-4, 2B, single (3 RBIs), Brianna Stetts 2-4, 2 singles. Top Central Mountain hitters: Jordan Kaler 1-3, 2B, Rachael Shady 2-4, 2 2B (RBI and sac RBI), Emily Strouse 1-3, 2B (RBI).
Record: JS 13-5; CM 15-3
Next: Jersey Shore at Shamokin, tomorrow, 4:30 p.m.; Central Mountain at Penns Valley, tomorrow, 4:30 p.m.