TURBOTVILLE - One by one RTL hitters slowly returned to their dugout, usually after watching a called strike three or swinging and missing on strike three. RTL was searching for answers at the plate but they weren't going to find them as long as Newberry pitcher Kirsten Smith was on the mound.
Smith struck out 16, allowed one hit and one unearned run, leading Newberry to its second straight 9-10 softball Section 3 title and appearance in the state tournament after its 5-1 win Thursday at the Thomas L. Moser Recreation Complex.
"She has a lot of them in her book, for sure," Newberry assistant coach Ray Harding said. "That kid can fire. That's a really big step for her accomplishments and her accolades and we're going to look for something here as we head out to states."
Prior to last season, the last time Newberry was in the state tournament was in the late 1960s or early 1970s. This team is doing what other Newberry teams have tried to do, but have failed. Those teams most likely didn't have a pitcher like Smith. She was dominant in districts, helping Newberry defeat Williamsport, 3-2, and has been stellar throughout sectionals. She struck out 16 of the 21 batters she faced. She struck out the side in four consecutive innings and at point struck out seven straight hitters. She retired the last nine batters of the game.
Newberry's offense wasn't dominant, but it didn't need to be with Smith pitching. The offense did make solid contact and forced the RTL defense into making mistakes.
"Our girls know if they're able to put the ball into play, it's up to the other team to make the plays," Harding said. "They can't do anything if they don't swing them bats. If they keep them bats rolling around, we got a chance to get on base and bring them around."
Newberry scored its first run when Constance Harding reached on an error. Aleigha Rippel scored on the play after she was walked and stole second. Smith scored Newberry's second run on an RBI single. Two RTL errors led to two runs for Newberry when Emily Hartley scored on an outfield error and Emily Hartley scored on the other error to make it 4-1. The final run came on Rachel Stahl's RBI double in the fifth.
RTL's pitcher Hailey Jayne allowed just one earned run and struck out 10.
Newberry is peaking at the right time.
"We've come on, these group of girls, I mean they just keep it going for us. If one is down, another one comes by and fires them up. It's like they take a little bit of that ink out of every pen that they have and they pour it into one. They jell all together to make that one pen, and that's what makes that team complete."
RTL 000 100- 1 1 5
Newberry 011 21x- 5 5 1
Hailey Jayne and Catherine Brown. Kirsten Smith and Hailey DeBrody. W- Smith. L- Jayne.
Top RTL hitters: Laci Norton 1-3 3B; Hailey Jayne 0-2 R, SB. Top Newberry hitters: Nicole Belton 1-3; Kirsten Smith 1-3 RBI; Rachel Stahl 1-3 2B, RBI; Hailey DeBrody 0-2 BB, 2 SB, R; Claire Alexander 1-2 R, SB.
Next: Newberry vs. TBA in state tournament at West Point LL, Greensburg, July 24.