Bottom of order producing for South Williamsport
Sabrina Mussare ripped a game-tying sixth-inning single Monday against Old Forge. Roxie Keller delivered the game-winning two-run single two innings later. Paige Lentz scored and/or drove in the game-winning runs in all three district playoff games.
And all three batters are at the bottom of South’s lineup.
The way the bottom of the order has delivered throughout the postseason, through the entire year, drives home a significant point. Simply, put there are no weak spots in the Mountie lineup. That is a big reason South has become one of the state’s eight best Class A softball teams.
“It’s definitely scary when you have a full lineup of people who can hit,” Mussare said after going 3 for 4 against Old Forge. “It’s just awesome.”
The Mounties hit up and down the order and hope to continue doing so Thursday in Allentown when they meet District 1 champion Bristol in the state quarterfinals.
South (17-6) has reached the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2006 and the District 4 champions have done it in exciting fashion, coming from behind to win all four games. The Comeback Kids have overcome deficits in the sixth inning or beyond in three of those four games, including in Monday’s 5-3, 8-inning victory over District 2 champion Old Forge.
Those comebacks could not happen, though, if the lineup was not so balanced. South hits from top to bottom and just as important hits in the clutch from top to bottom. The bottom of the order has come up big in the postseason but so to has the top and the middle. Leadoff hitter Lizz Cummings homered against Northeast Bradford in the district quarterfinals while No. 3 hitter Kalynn Wheeland hit the liner that allowed Lentz to score the winning run.
Cleanup hitter Kelsey Gantz hit a game-tying two-run, sixth-inning home run in the semifinals against Muncy and has eight RBIs this postseason. In the regular season Alanna Herrera hit a game-winning sixth-inning RBI double against Montoursville while Wheeland’s home run was part of an early-season comeback win at Loyalsock.
“You just know when you need someone to get a hit that they will,” said Keller, who has delivered her game-tying and game-winning hits the last two games after being behind 0-2. “Then the next girl is going to get a hit and then the next one. It’s a domino effect.”
It is one that has carried South deeper than any Mountie team in the last eight years. Pick a game and go through the lineup and one likely is going to find a different player who delivered a key hit. Opposing pitchers sometimes can breathe easier at certain points of a lineup against several teams but not against South.
The Mounties let nobody rest easy and have scored five runs in all four playoff games. South had 10 hits against Old Forge and has had seven or more in all but one playoff game. During the regular season, the Mounties scored at least nine runs 10 times and scored 16 runs against Loyalsock which finished 17-5. Sometimes it is one part of the lineup coming through and the next game it is another, but rare has been the day when South has been completely extinguished.
Some teams ride a few players at this point of the season. South is riding its entire team.
“We have confidence in every player,” Wheeland said. “If someone makes a mistake we know someone else is going to pick them up and just keep the team going.”
South easily could have been one and done in the playoffs, losing to two-time defending district champion Northeast Bradford. That day the bottom of the order ignited the game-winning seventh-inning rally. The Mounties could have been finished five days later against Muncy, trailing 4-2 in the sixth inning. That time, Gantz sparked the rally.
Wheeland and Gantz hit singles to start the pivotal fourth inning in the championship against Bloomsburg before Keller and Lentz capped it. Cummings put an exclamation point on things with her eighth home run three innings later.
Top, middle, bottom it does not really matter. All these Comeback Kids can hit.
“If anyone has watched the dynamics of the team when they come off the field it’s all genuine. They’re yelling and they’re yelling and trying to make it happen and they generally do,” South coach Scott Stugart said. “You’re not going to score every inning playing good teams but they definitely believe in themselves.”