Williamsport’s Aldenderfer pitches clutch final 1 2/3 innings

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Williamsport’s Jessica Brooks tries to slide into home as Central Mountain catcher Bailee Renninger tries to turn a double play at Elm Park on Tuesday afternoon in Williamsport.

All around her, the chaos kept growing. Central Mountain had already hit four home runs an inning earlier. Now, the defending District 6 Class 5A champions loaded the bases and retaking a sixth-inning lead appeared inevitable.

Central Mountain may have hit Williamsport pitcher Mikayla Aldenderfer hard, but it could not break her. On a day when so much went against her, Aldenderfer owned the most pressure-filled moment and flipped the script. It was not her best performance Tuesday at Elm Park, but over the last 1 2/3 innings it might have been Aldenderfer’s most impressive.

The senior leader retired the last five batters she faced, ending that sixth-inning threat and then working a quick 1-2-3 seventh inning as Williamsport won a 12-8 thriller. Mariah Wright hit a go-ahead, two-run, fifth-inning single and Williamsport overcame five Central Mountain home runs to make its opening performance an exciting one.

“I realized that I didn’t want to lose the game for my team. I realized my team needed me and that I had to step up and get the job done,” Aldenderfer said. “I was excited (about the sixth inning). I knew with certain pitches I could get out of it. I was a little worried but I knew if I threw my pitches I would be fine.”

“She’s a warrior. That’s the word we use for her,” first-year Williamsport coach Chase Smith said. “She was a little heart-broken after the home runs. It’s a new experience for us to have the fence here. She has to learn that’s part of our game now. As soon as she accepted that fact, she was fine. She was back to her normal self and that’s what we needed.”

Central Mountain (2-2) hit four of its five home runs in the top of the fifth, turning a 7-3 deficit into an 8-7 lead. The Wildcats hit four home runs in five at-bats and Skyler Colarusso relieved Aldenderfer when it was 7-6. Colarusso earned the win as the Millionaires answered in the bottom half, scoring three times and taking a 10-8 lead.

Williamsport went back to Aldenderfer to open the sixth, but a single and two walks had the Wildcats poised to tie or reclaim the lead, especially with the middle of the lineup coming up. It was then that Aldenderfer showed she is as tough as she is talented and delivered her best pitches. She induced a fielder’s choice as second baseman Jessica Brooks threw out a runner at home. Brooks then fielded a hard-hit grounder a batter later and the rally ended. An inning later, Aldenderfer mowed through Central Mountain on eight pitches and Williamsport had its first win over Central Mountain in four years.

“She has been the heart and soul of this team for four years essentially and she had not completely accepted that role and I think she may have right there,” Smith said. “I think she realizes we’re living and we’re dying with her and that’s she wants to know, too. She wants to know that we have complete faith in her, so I think she learned something about herself and we learned that she can come back and battle.”

So can Central Mountain which did not flinch after trailing 7-2 in the fourth inning. Morgan Wetzel slammed two home runs and ignited the fifth-inning barrage. Skylar Smith and Madison Knepp followed with home runs as Central Mountain went back to back. Madyson Bechdel singled and freshman Alexa Shultz gave the Wildcats an 8-7 lead when she drilled a 2-run home run to center field.

A state quarterfinalist last year, Central Mountain is mashing the ball early this season. The Wildcats had 11 hits yesterday and have produced 39 runs and 49 hits through four games. Knepp went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and her two-run first-inning single put Central Mountain up, 2-0. Eight different players also collected at least one hit.

“We got down and gave up a lot of runs and came back and kept battling and kept swinging and never quit,” Central Mountain coach Ben Trew said. “That speaks a lot about the character we have with our players and the confidence they have to know they are capable of coming back from situations like that. We’ve only been able to get a couple games in but with some of the experience we have we have a lot of confidence in the players we have to be able to get the job done, even if it is a large task like coming back from a 7-2 deficit.”

Williamsport used similar offensive balance to inflict damage. The Millionaires answered both Central Mountain rallies, scoring four runs in the first to erase that 2-0 deficit. They then immediately responded after Central Mountain’s home run fest in the fifth, scoring three times. First-time starter Mariah Wright highlighted the rally, ripping a go-ahead, two-run single into right field before hustling home and scoring on a wild pitch.

An inning later, catcher Kalindi Maggs belted a two-run double down the right-field line as Williamsport went up, 12-8. Every Millionaire player reached base six different players had at least one RBI. Sammi Reeder and Brooks ignited rallies in the first two innings that had Williamsport up 7-2 and both finished with two hits, including doubles. Katie Meale went 2 for 4 with a two-run double, three RBIs and three runs, while freshman Avery Eiswerth had a hit and scored twice.

“I think we’re solid all the way through the lineup. We can mix the lineup a million times and I’d still have confidence in everybody,” Aldenderfer said. “I couldn’t be happier with how we played in our first game.”

“A couple different times I said we’re going to need to score 15 runs to win this game. That’s the mentality we had to have,” Smith said. “There’s no stopping point and they kept battling. Even the outs we had were hard hit balls right at people. We had quality at-bats the whole game.”

Central Mountain 201 050 0–8 11 3

Williamsport 430 320 x–12 9 1

Caitlyn Brush and Bailee Renninger. Mikayla Aldenderfer, Skyler Colarusso (5), Aldenderfer (6) and Kalindi Maggs. W: Colarusso, (1-0). L: Brush, (2-2). SV: Aldenderfer, (1).

Top Central Mountain hitters: Morgan Wetzel 2-3, 2 HR, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Skylar Smith 1-3, HR, RBI; Madison Knepp 3-4, HR, 3 RBIs; Alexa Shultz 1-4, HR, 2 RBIs. Top Williamsport hitters: Sammi Reeder 2-4, 2B, 2 runs; Jessica Brooks 2-3, 2B, 2 RBIs, run; Katie Meale 2-4, 2B, 3 RBIs, 2 runs; Avery Eiswerth 1-4, 2 runs; Maggs 1-3, 2B, 2 RBIs; Mariah Wright 1-4, 2 RBIs, run.

Records: Williamsport (1-0), Central Mountain (2-2).