Loyalsock softball falls to Mid Valley in PIAA Class AAA playoffs
LIME RIDGE — Kat Davis scorched a sixth-inning line drive which looked destined for the left-center field gap. Instead, Loyalsock shortstop Summer McNulty soared high into the twilight and made a remarkable catch before completing the sequence and doubling the lead runner off first base.
It was the final highlight Loyalsock produced during a memorable season which included league and District 4 championships. The Lancers showed no quit against District 2 champion Mid Valley.
They simply ran into a powerhouse operating at peak level.
Maranda Runco homered twice and threw a one-hitter as Mid Valley blanked Loyalsock, 12-0, in five innings and ended the Lancers’ terrific season in the Class AAA state tournament opener. Mid Valley (20-2) hit five home runs, scored seven second-inning runs, played stellar defense, and earned a spot in Thursday’s quarterfinals against District 11 runner-up North Schuylkill.
“We were excited. We were ready. In the 10 minutes we had to warm up on the field we got a lot done,” Runco said. “In the five innings that we had, we had to do what we had to do, and we did it.”
Loyalsock did a lot this season, too. The Lancers (19-4) captured a District 4 championship for just the third time in program history and added a share of the HAC-II title for a third straight season. Fighting through a rigorous schedule, demanding league and loaded district field, Loyalsock took its place alongside some of its best teams ever.
Monday’s loss diminishes none of those achievements.
“I’m proud of the girls. They played hard. They never quit the whole time,” Loyalsock coach Mark Godfrey said. “Sure, we’re disappointed but it’s like we told the girls, they can’t take that district medal away. Loyalsock’s only had three and those seniors have two of them. It was a great season.”
Loyalsock entered this game a serious state-title contender, driving home how dominant Mid Valley was and dangerous it is moving forward. Runco led the way and was every bit as good as advertised. The sophomore left-hander is receiving Division I interest and entered the game with 17 home runs despite being intentionally walked 17 times.
Loyalsock went after Runco when she led off the game and she drove a 3-1 pitch well over the fence in straight-away center field. Runco is so dangerous that Loyalsock intentionally walked her to bring in the game’s second run in the second inning. Even crazier is that the move made perfect sense since Runco averages a home run every 3.6 at-bats and another there would have made it 5-0.
Runco was walked again the next time before homering again in the fourth inning, giving her 19 this season and upping her average to .691. Oh yeah, she also did not allow a hit after McNulty opened the bottom of the first with a single, and she fielded her position extremely well.
“Last week I didn’t get pitched to at all. I thought I wasn’t going to hit at all after that first home run, but when I did get to hit, I was so excited,” Runco said. “When they walk me that just gives my teammates a chance to hit. We score that run most of the time. Sometimes I just get excited to get a walk.”
Mid Valley (20-2) broke things open in the second inning with Madison Kizer’s three-run home run making it 8-0. Catcher Kaylee Terranella and first baseman Courtney Rebar also smashed home runs. Each home run was hit to the deepest part of center field as well.
“I’m speechless with five home runs. I’m astonished,” Runco said. “We’ve just been hitting non-stop, and it really pays off on the field.”
Loyalsock threw three pitchers and sophomore Marissa Helmrich re-entered in the fourth inning and performed well. Helmrich struck out six, including three over the final two innings. She came back strong in the first inning, too, after Runco hit her first home run, striking out two and keeping it 1-0.
Loyalsock nearly tied it in the bottom of the inning. McNulty delivered the final hit of her splendid career with the leadoff single before Hannah Winter bunted her to second. Cassie Gee was a few feet from tying the game, but shortstop Lindsey Jason made a good stop and laser throw to beat her, and Mid Valley broke it open an inning later.
Loyalsock hit the ball hard at times and struck out just four times against Runco who has 193 strikeouts this season. Mid Valley’s defense, however, was sensational and gobbled up almost every ball.
McNulty closed her career with more than 100 hits despite losing last season to COVID-19. She, Gee, Jocelyn Cruz and first baseman Mari Houseknecht won district and/or league championships every season there. And now Loyalsock brings back six starters, several quality reserves and adds some exciting junior high players come 2022.
“God’s blessed us,” Godfrey said. “I’m blessed just to have the opportunity to coach them.”
Mid Valley 170 40–12 11 1
Loyalsock 000 00–0 1 1
Maranda Runco and Kaylee Terranella. Marissa Helmrich, Hannah Winter (2), Anna Luxenberger (4), Helmrich (4) and Grace Shaible. W–Runco, (20-2). L–Helmrich, (10-3).
Top Mid Valley hitters: Runco 2-2 2 HR, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Madison Kizer 2-4, HR, 2B, 3 RBIs, 2 runs; Terranella 2-3, HR, 2 RBIs; Kat Davis 1-4, RBI, run; Courtney Rebar 1-2, HR, RBI; Emma Kobylanski . Top Loyalsock hitters: Summer McNulty 1-2; Jocelyn Cruz BB.
Records: Mid Valley 20-2. Loyalsock 19-4.