Clinton earns pool title at states

STROUDSBURG – There wasn’t a team in the tournament boasting a more intimidating resume than Punxsutawney.

But, it didn’t matter.

The Clinton girls stared the opponent down and with unwavering confidence and played on a level Punxsy couldn’t reach, winning convincingly 6-1.

“What this means for Clinton softball is… we play tomorrow,” Clinton manager Eric Dershem said. “It’s huge for Clinton softball, but this is where we wanted to be. We’re at the next step and we’re taking it one game at a time.”

Seeing Punxsutawney’s starting pitcher, Kylie Lingenfelter, warm up made one thing abundantly clear. Punxsy had the tournament’s fastest pitcher, no losses and no runs allowed through two games.

Clinton’s response?

Bring it.

Dershem’s squad started out well in the first, getting a early run from MaKenzie Peters’ RBI single. Though the quick one-run lead was huge, something else may have rattled Punxsy. Clinton’s batters stepped into the box unfazed to Lingenfelter’s speed. Clinton was playing with confidence, one day after rallying late to beat West Point.

“Our girls like fast pitchers,” Dershem said. “We told them, listen, ‘This is what you’ve been begging for, so let’s see what you got.’ A couple contact hits can score a run and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Clinton hardly had breathing room on the board up 1-0, but that all changed in the third. Skylar Falls and Cassidy Brush each were walked, setting up Josie Dershem, whose bunt single loaded the bases.

Caitlyn Brush brought home the first run, jumping on an off-speed pitch she belted to left field. The next two runs came from a fielding error at shortstop, followed by Dershem’s steal for home. The final two runs came from Gabi Vuocolo, who smashed a double through left-center, that scored Brush and Skylar Smith.

“When you have a shot, you have to take it and move around when you can. We had the bases loaded and had a good stick by Gabi Vuocolo, clearing off some of the bags.”

Vuocolo’s two-run double was something she’s been waiting for.

“Our coach said to us just to play hard and go at your best pace,” Vuocolo said. “At the plate, he told us to just rip it and don’t give up. I thought my hit was pretty good and it was probably a big hit for the team.”

Clinton used Lindsey Johnson at pitcher in the fifth, having to rest Dershem, but Johnson did relatively well. Clinton only gave up one run on two hits through the final one and half innings, sealing the victory.

After the final out, the loyal Clinton fans stood and cheered with thunderous applause for their girls, a gesture the team never takes for granted.

“They’re just awesome,” Vuocolo said. “They have supported us all the way and they’ve been with us since we were nine. The team we have is great. We always have a good time at campgrounds or hotels, wherever we’re at. We’re just having a blast.”

Punxsutawny000 010 – 1 3 2

Clinton 105 00X – 6 6 2

WP: Skylar Smith (2) [Brush (2), Johnson (2)] to Brush (Dershem) LP: Kylie Lingenfelter (2) [Horner (2) White (1)] to Jazzmine Hadden

Top Hitters: Punxsutawney – Cassidy Reed double RBI and Lakyn Smith triple; Clinton – Josie Dershem single(bunt), Caitlyn Brush single RBI, Skylar Smith single, Makenzie Peters single RBI, Gabi Vuocolo double 2 RBI and Rachael Karwowski single.

Next game: State semifinals today vs. Runner-up of Pool B.