SHIPPENSBURG – Golden Girls again.
For the second time in three years, the Curwensville Lady Tide reigns as PIAA Class A softball champion.
Holly Lansberry made a fourth inning unearned run stand up for a 1-0 victory in a much-anticipated state title game pitching duel with Old Forge\’s Jess Armillay on Shippensburg University\’s Robb Field Friday afternoon.
The remarkable Lady Tide senior right-hander allowed only a bunt single and two walks in her 21st shutout of the season.
The one-hitter was Lansberry\’s 10th to go with eight no-hitters this year and set her career record at a mind-boggling 75-10.
Five strikeouts pushed her District 9 record-breaking totals to 293 for the season and 865 over four years.
Curwensville (26-1) needed Lansberry\’s effort to hand Armillay a tough-luck loss.
The Lady Blue Devil junior was every bit as good as advertised after her back-to-back perfect games against Bristol and Claysburg-Kimmel that sent Old Forge (18-3) to the gold medal game for the first time.
Armillay extended her string of 1-2-3 innings to 18 before Lansberry\’s catchable pop fly fell in short right for a single leading off the fourth inning and might have taken the game into extra innings were it not for a misplayed fly ball.
The Lady Tide, which sported a lofty .383 batting average, wound up with a season-low three hits and struck out a season-high seven times.
\”It\’s just special,\” coach Allen Leigey while the Lady Tide players were celebrating and receiving congratulations from families and fans behind the outfield fence. \”The deal was to get to Shippensburg and then to finish it.
\”But we were in a battle. That was a hard-fought grudge match in the circle, don\’t make any mistakes, because the first one that bends is gonna lose.
\”Fortunately for us, we didn\’t bend. We hung tight defensively, made the plays that we had to make and were able to force out a run.\”
Actually, it was a gift run. On another day, Old Forge makes both plays that resulted in the lone marker.
Armillay had retired 54 consecutive batters over four games when Lansberry reached base as her pop-up dropped to the grass between second baseman Aleca Semenza and right fielder Nicole Giacometti.
After Shannon McDonald was called on for a rare sacrifice bunt, Ashley Demchak lofted a fly to deep center that Allyson Marianelli ran under but didn\’t squeeze. Lansberry scored easily, but the run didn\’t become official until the home plate umpire signaled safe in response to the Old Forge coaching staff\’s appeal that she had missed third base.
Armillay denied the Lady Tide what would have been a big insurance run in the fifth after Sara Clark doubled to deep left and advanced to third on a passed ball. Armillay set down the next three batters on a strikeout and two pop-ups.
Stranding Clark at third was magnified when the Lady Blue Devils came within a few feet away of tying the game and possibly taking the lead.
Giacometti led off by beating out a perfectly-placed bunt toward third base for Old Forge\’s lone hit. She sprinted to second on Chrissy Belko\’s fly to left that Clark drifted back to grab.
A mini-delay ensued when Lansberry and batterymate Demchak didn\’t agree with the location of a 2-0 pitch to Armillay, who had sent center fielder Tess Bloom to the warning track for her first-inning drive.
\”They were saying, \’Why are we going outside (again). We\’re going 3-0,\’\” Leigey explained. \”Holly stepped off. She (and Demchak) didn\’t want to throw outside again, but we wanted it outside.
\”The pitcher hit the ball every time she was up. We, as a coaching staff, were willing to walk her, and the girls didn\’t understand that. We wanted to go after the next batter, who we thought we had a better chance with.
\”We got in a little coach-pitcher-catcher disagreement. But it was friendly.\”
So was the direction of the laser Armillay, on a 1-2 offering, scorched right at Erin Bressler in short right field. A couple of steps either way, and Armillay would have had at least an RBI-triple, perhaps an inside-the-park home run.
Giacometti was almost at third base when Bressler\’s throw to McDonald resulted in an easy inning-ending double play.
\”That was huge,\” Leigey said. \”That really snuffed \’em out.\”
Lansberry made sure there was no drama in the seventh, though Andi Alsalahat had the Old Forge fans cheering with a drive to Clark in fairly deep left. The next two Lady Devils popped up to shortstop McDonald and first baseman Stacey Johnson.
Seconds later, a pile-up of Lady Tide players covered most of the pitching circle.
When asked to describe their feelings after a second state championship, Lansberry, Demchak and McDonald answered with the same word, \”Amazing.\”
\”It\’s just indescribable,\” Demchak added. \”It\’s everything you\’ve always wanted and, once it comes, it\’s unreal. You can\’t even believe it.\”
Lansberry said, \”I never thought this would happen, but after losing last year, we made a pact that we were gonna come back, and we weren\’t gonna stop.\”
Curwensville\’s bid for a repeat in 2008 ended with a 1-0 loss to Cambridge Springs in the first round of the state playoffs.
\”We just had this goal the whole year,\” McDonald said. \”Our whole team played in the fall and in the winter together, so it\’s a good feeling. I can\’t believe we did it twice.\”
\”It\’s so hard to make it here even once in a lifetime, let alone twice in three years,\” Leigey said. \”And then to get here and win it twice, I know how hard it is. You\’ve gotta have a break. You\’ve gotta have good talent, which we had up and down the lineup. Also, you\’ve just gotta make the plays.
\”They made very play from Day One till now and closed the book on it. They\’re 26-1. And, again, I\’ve said it before, they can\’t believe Punxsy beat \’em. They still go back and say, \’How did we lose that game?\’
\”It just that refuse-to-lose mentality. They were coming here to win. Whether it was 11-0 or 1-0, they were going to have one run more than the other team.\”
Lansberry, Demchak and McDonald were pretty sure one run was going to be enough.
\”They were never going to score,\” Demchak proclaimed, who. \”Holly looked real good in warm-ups. Our defense looked real good.
\”We always say, put the ball in play, give yourself a chance and make the defense work for it, and that\’s exactly what we did. And it paid off for us.\”
\”I knew it was gonna be a close game, but I have faith in our team,\” McDonald said. \”We don\’t let people score very often.\”
Opponents scored only 10 runs against the Lady Tide, with Lansberry allowing nine, just four of them earned, in 151-2/3 innings.
\”No way,\” Lansberry said about giving up No. 10 to the Lady Blue Devils. \”I always ask Ash when I\’m warming up, \’Is today going to be a good day?\’
\”And she said, \’Definitely, today.\’\”
Another good day by Lansberry made a great day for the Lady Tide.
The trio of four-year letterwinners and Bloom, a junior, share the honor of having started for both of Curwensville\’s championship teams.
Bressler, third baseman Jenessa Stiles and second baseman Jenae Stiles were the other senior starters.
Morgan Peterman, Hannah Walls and Patty Koontz also are seniors.
EXTRA INNINGS – Curwensville finished the season with a 10-game winning streak after losing 1-0 at Punxsutawney on May 12… Old Forge, which lost in the PIAA quarterfinals last year, had won 17 games in a row after a 1-2 start. The Lady Blue Devils were attempting to claim the fourth state title by a District 2 team in this decade. They had only four hits in their last three games… Armillay, who was an unknown quantity because of her turnaround from an 8.50 earned run average after three games, certainly earned the respect of the Lady Tide. Lansberry and McDonald called the hop on her riser the best they\’ve seen this season, and Leigey praised her as sneaky fast and better than he had been led to believe. He compared her favorably to Punxsy\’s Angie Burke, the only pitcher to keep Curwensville off the scoreboard… Lansberry and Marianelli will be roommates at Lycoming in the fall… Lansberry didn\’t have much time to enjoy the championship, for she was to join members of the Bald Eagle Area team in an 18-and-under national qualifier Saturday and Sunday at York. District 6 champion Bald Eagle Area defeated previously undefeated Brandywine Heights 2-0 for the PIAA Class AA crown with Megan Shaw firing a two-hitter. Shaw and Lansberry share the pitching duties for the summer team.
OLD FORGE — 0
Chrissy Belko ss 3000, Jess Armillay p 3000, Andi Alsalahat c 2000, Sarah Fife 1b 3000, Aleca Semenza 2b 2000, Allyson Marianelli cf 1000, Dana Bilski dp 2000, Lindsay Regan 3b 2000, Nicole Giacometti rf 2010, Nicole Marianelli lf (flex) 0000. TOTALS: 21 0 1.
CURWENSVILLE – 1
Holly Lansberry p 3110, Shannon McDonald ss 2000, Ashley Demchak c 3010, Jenessa Stiles 3b 2000, Stacey Johnson 1b 3000, Molly Demchak dp 2000, Sara Clark lf 2010, Tess Bloom cf 2000, Erin Bressler rf 2000, Jenae Stiles 2b (flex) 0000. TOTALS: 21 1 3.
Score by Innings
Old Forge 000 000 0 – 0 1 1
Curwensville 000 100 x – 1 3 0
Error – A. Marianelli. PB – Alsalahat. DP – Curwensville 1 (Bressler and McDonald). LOB – Old Forge 2; Curwensville 3. 2B – Clark. Sac – A. Marianelli; McDonald.
Old Forge – Armillay 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K.
Curwensville – Lansberry 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
W – Lansberry (25-1). L – Armillay (18-3).