Williamsport forces a deciding game

Erika Talini hurt her hand early during Wednesday’s District 12 Junior Division championship. She left for a few innings but returned in the seventh inning and made a key catch.

Talini is like several Williamsport players. She is bruised and hurting. But Talini and her teammates also are still standing. And they are a win from capturing a championship.

Skyler Calarusso left the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh innings and Williamsport scored eight two-out runs as it defeated Jersey Shore 9-5 at Short Park and forced an “if” game for the district championship. Williamsport and Jersey Shore have split two tournament games and play for the title tonight at 6 p.m. at Montgomery’s Staggert Field.

“We’ve lost two girls to injuries but all 13 players contribute and help the team,” Williamsport coach Eric Holzapfel said. “They have played together for a long time and play well together. They are very resilient.”

Jersey Shore beat Williamsport, 14-5, last Sunday but Williamsport has come back strong, beating Montoursville, 14-2, before holding off Jersey Shore last night. Williamsport has delivered 21 hits in the two wins and the lineup is as deep as it is dangerous.

Eight players combined for nine hits last night after seven delivered hits against Montoursville. Reserves Shelly Floyd and Mikenna Cinnini highlighted the depth, hitting a pinch-hit RBI single and RBI double, respectively, in the fifth and sixth innings as Williamsport took a 9-3 lead. Both hits came with two outs as Williamsport repeatedly delivered timely hits in clutch situations.

Williamsport went ahead 4-0 in the second inning as Olivia Keyes, Calie Shields and Makenzie Cannon delivered three straight hits that produced four runs. Cannon capped the rally with a two-run single.

“Every one of these 11 girls can start and it was nice to see all 11 come through,” Holzapfel said. “We worked on some different hitting techniques after the last (Jersey Shore) game and it paid off.”

Jersey Shore lost its first district game but pressured Williamsport over the final two innings and threatened to make an impressive comeback. Down by six runs with six outs remaining, Jersey Shore scored a run in both the sixth and seventh innings while loading the bases each time and bringing the tying run to the plate.

Jersey Shore was down to its last strike four different times but kept fighting back and Ann Marie Pase was about 2 feet from delivering a two-out, three-run double. The result was not what Jersey Shore wanted but it gained momentum entering tonight’s championship while showing that nothing comes easy against it.

Jersey Shore also nearly erased that 4-0 deficit, scoring three times in the fourth inning and pulling within a run after a Brooke Potter triple and RBI singles from Sammy Ewing and Ashlyn Wool.

“We’re proud of the way the girls battled back,” Jersey Shore coach Josh Ewing said. “We loaded the bases twice there and one hit here or there and it’s a tie game.”

Nine different players combined for 11 Jersey Shore hits and Ewing went 3 for 4 with an RBI and two runs. Jersey Shore has scored 27 runs in three district games so Calarusso had a lot of pressure on her during those sixth and seventh innings. The hard-throwing right-hander kept delivering, however, making big pitches when she had to and relying on a solid defense behind her.

Calarusso induced an inning-ending groundout in the sixth before forcing a game-ending popout in the seventh. She stranded nine runners and also went 2 for 3 with a fifth-inning RBI double.

“We’ve been riding her throughout the season and Skyler has grown leaps and bounds from where she was,” Holzapfel said. “I told her she doesn’t have to worry about hitting when she’s pitching but she’s a very smart girl and puts it all together.”

Calarusso is one of several Williamsport players who plays alongside Jersey Shore players on the Shore Fury, a travel softball team. Now they are locked in a friendly rivalry. They make good teammates, but also challenging opponents.

“We told the girls Williamsport would be ready to come back and play hard,” Ewing said. “We are all close with each other. This is a tight-knit group of players.”

Williamsport040 023 0-9 9 3

Jersey Shore000 302 0-5 11 3

Skyler Calarusso and Aimee Holzapfel. Sammy Ewing, Gabi Vuocolo (6) and Jocelyn Barr. W-Calarusso. L-Ewing.

Top Williamsport hitters: Makenzie Cannon 1-4, 2 RBI, R; Taylor Mazzullo 1-4, 2B, RBI, R; Holzapfel 1-3, 2B, RBI, 2 R; Calarusso 2-3, 2B, RBI, 2 R; Shelly Floyd 1-2, RBI; Oliva Keyes 1-3, RBI, R; Mikenna Cinnini 1-1, 2B, RBI, R. Top Jersey Shore hitters: Vuocolo 1-2, BB; Brooke Potter 1-4, 3B, R; Ewing 3-4, 2 R, RBI; Johna Laubach 1-4, 2B, RBI, R; Ashlyn Wool 1-2, RBI; Ellie Miller 1-2, RBI.