Softball falls to Beca in semifinals
The Northwestern Lady Tigers used a strong pitching performance from Lydia Danner and some key defensive plays to battle defending state champion Bethlehem Catholic through six scoreless innings in the District 11 semifinals at Parkland High School last Thursday. Ironically, one defensive miscue led to the Tigers downfall as the Golden Hawks downed Northwestern 1-0 with a run in the bottom of the seventh to advance to the championship game, looking for a spot in the PIAA Playoffs.
Danner, a senior, allowed just five hits and no walks through six-plus innings against Bethlehem Catholic. After allowing a leadoff single to Bethanne Brandstetter in the seventh, coach Josh Zimmerman made a strategic move and brought in Ellen Smith to pitch.
“They were starting to time her up a little bit at the end of the game, so we decided to make a move and try to go with a different speed pitcher, and it just didn’t work out in our favor,” said Zimmerman. “Lydia just went out and did her job in center field. We’re going to miss her a lot, she’s kind of the heart and soul, the heartbeat of this team, and she’s going to be tough to replace.”
Danner had strong defense behind her throughout the game, with two key plays standing out. With a runner on third and two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Maddie Ensley hit a little foul pop over toward the Tigers dugout. Catcher Brooke Wehr got a good jump on the ball and dove to make the catch and end the inning.
An inning later, with runners on first and second and two outs, Courtney Shupp hit a low fly ball into right-center field that appeared destined to find an open spot. Instead, right fielder Morgan Billig took a page out of Wehr’s book and made a diving stab to catch the ball and keep Bethlehem Catholic off the board.
Ironically, Bethlehem Catholic scored the winning run on a ball that bounced away from left fielder Avery George in left field, allowing Brandstetter to score the winning run. Elysse Cuttic lined a shot to left that handcuffed George, giving the Hawks an opportunity that they were able to cash in on.
“It’s absolutely a tough way to lose it, but our girls have nothing to hang their heads about,” said Zimmerman. “They battled all the way against a team that went 16-2 in the EPC. It kind of shows you that we’re not going to be outclassed by anybody and we’re going to be in every game and fight down to the bitter end,
“I just can’t say how proud I am of the girls in this group and what they were able to accomplish this year.”
Cuttic, Beca’s senior pitcher, held Northwestern to three hits in the game. It looked like the Tigers would take an early lead in the first when a one-out walk to Claire O’Dea was followed by Wehr’s double to put runners on second and third. Cuttic settled in and got back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat. Cuttic went on to retire the last 12 hitters in the game.
Danner is among a group of seven seniors – Billig, Kaitlyn Bowers, Alyssa Cinquemani, Danner, O’Dea, Alyssa Rodda and Smith – who will be lost to graduation.
Zimmerman had just three juniors on this year’s team and is looking to Wehr to be one of the leaders of the team next season.
“She does a great job for us,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that she’s going to come out on fire for us, just like she was this year.”
While the Lady Tigers (13-10) season came to an end, the Hawks went on to lose to Bangor, 6-4, in the district title game.
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Danner, Smith (7) and Wehr; Cuttic and Shupp. W - Cuttic. L - Danner