Bulldogs’ early lead doesn’t hold up

TURBOTVILLE — Any loss can be difficult to deal with, but when it happens in the final game of a season or career, the pill can be a little more difficult to swallow.

After cruising through the regular season schedule, the Jersey Shore softball team kept things moving ahead with wins over Milton and Shamokin to capture the District 4 Class AAAA crown.

As a result of winning the district title, the Bulldogs qualified for the PIAA championship tournament, facing District 11 winner Bethlehem Catholic.

Unfortunately for Jersey Shore, their venture into the state tournament ended in a one-an-done situation as the Bulldogs dropped an 8-3 decision to the Hawks at the Moser Complex Monday afternoon.

“Regardless of this loss, we had a successful season,” said Jersey Shore coach Randy Smith. “As it turned out, these girls surpassed everything we (the coaches) had expected of them. We won the league, we won districts and we had hoped to go far in the state playoffs but that didn’t happen. I am extremely proud of these girls. They fought hard all year and 19-3 was a heck of a season for them. It is just sad to see it end like this.”

Jersey Shore came out with their bats smoking in the first inning as they parlayed doubles by McKenna Russell, Brianna Harman and Alyssa Stover for a pair of runs and a 2-0 lead.

The Shore bats remained hot in the second inning as they put together doubles by Arizona Shreck and Kylie Russell along with a fielder’s choice by Gabby Vuocolo for their third run and the early 3-0 lead.

“The girls came out right from the start and pounded the ball,” said Smith. “When they did that my thought was ‘hey, this is what I like to see.’ Then all of a sudden the bats just went quiet. It looked like she (Bethlehem Catholic relief pitcher Tatum Kresley) was throwing a curve ball that would start right at them and curve across the plate. We took too many called strikes, especially strike three calls.”

With the 3-0 lead, Jersey Shore’s Kylie Russell controlled the Bethlehem Catholic bats until they combined four hits, a hit batsman and a questionable call on a ground ball to shortstop to score four runs, taking a 4-3 lead that held up through the sixth inning.

Throughout most of the season, one of the strengths of the Bulldogs was their defense. However as fate would have it for Jersey Shore, that aspect of their game went south in the seventh inning as two costly physical errors and a mental error or two resulted in Bethlehem Catholic putting up another crooked number to push their lead to 8-3 that held up for the final.

“We just fell apart defensively there at the end,” said Smith. “I reminded them that they had been strong defensively all season long and our defense has won a lot of games for us. I told our girls that this team (Bethlehem Catholic) is not going to go away and they didn’t. They hit the ball and in some cases it was tough for us to make the plays. Next year is going to be exciting because we return a lot of players from this team. That in itself gives us a lot to look forward to.”

Bethlehem Catholic 000 040 4 — 8 10 0

Jersey Shore 210 000 0 — 3 8 2

Alyssa Diaz, Tatum Kresley (3) and Julia Sledz. Kylie Russell and Alyssa Stover. W–Kresley. L–Russell.

Top Bethlehem Catholic hitters: Jess Indelicato 2-4, run, RBI; Shaye Kerper 3-4, run, RBI. Top Jersey Shore hitters: Kylie Russell 2B, RBI; McKenna Russell 2B, run; Brianna Harman 3-3, 2B, run; Alyssa Stover 1-2, 2B, RBI.