Bangor shocks NW in seventh inning
Northwestern softball head coach Josh Zimmerman thought his Lady Tigers would need a near-perfect game to knock off top-seeded Bangor in the Colonial League semifinals.
And for six innings, the Lady Tigers played as close to perfect as he could have asked for But Bangor still had one last inning to work with.
The Lady Slaters rallied from a three-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to complete the comeback, advancing to the Colonial League championship game with an 8-7 victory. Bangor scored four in the seventh, capped by a walk-off RBI-single from Hanna England that completed the walk-off victory.
“We put six solid innings of work together,” Zimmerman said. “We came in all week saying that when we get here, we have to have our perfect game against Bangor. The bottom line is they are a quality ball club. They always are.”
England stepped into the batter’s box with two outs and Bangor just one run from completing its epic comeback. She wasted no time, lining the first pitch into center field to score Dani Fey.
The win advanced Bangor to Thursday’s championship game against No. 5 seed Salisbury, which upset Southern Lehigh in the first semifinal game on Tuesday, 3-1.
“I knew right on the first one, she always throws me a fastball right down the middle,” England said. “I knew I was going to hit it and I did.”
“We came out ready to hit,” Zimmerman said. “We came out a little bit on fire. I don’t know if it was complacency, or whatever it was in the seventh there. But there were runs that were all over the game. We gave a couple up and had a couple of errors in some spots that could have meant the difference in the game.”
Northwestern seemed to have Bangor right where it wanted through six innings. A steady dose of offense and three innings of hitless pitching from relief pitcher Cassidy Lentz had an upset brewing.
But Bangor finally found its groove in the seventh inning. The Slaters’ No. 8 and 9 hitters Olivia Groller and Sky Gilligan led off the frame with back-to-back singles. Then, leadoff hitter Nikki Kessler walked to load the bases.
After a fly out to Jen Learn, CiCi Holmquest single to right field and scored Groller to cut Northwestern’s lead to 7-5. Fey and Kaitlin Caleen added consecutive RBI-singles to tie the game at 7-7, setting up England to play the role of hero.
“We came in with the strategy saying that small ball is going to be kind of limited,” Zimmerman said. “They are going to score their runs. They are a good hitting team. So we came in with the mentality that we have to hit and stay hitting with them. We were able to do that for six innings, and in that seventh one they were able to get a couple more hits than we did.”
After Akelaitis was pulled in the fourth inning, Lentz retired eight straight batters and did not allow a hit until the seventh inning.
“She came in and shut them down right away,” Zimmerman said. “My heart goes out to her because she went out there and did her job. There’s no doubt about it.”
Northwestern got on the scoreboard first and led 2-1 after the first inning after Akelaitis and Jess Badman recorded RBIs.
After the Lady Slaters took their first lead of the game in the fourth inning at 4-3, Northwestern responded immediately in the top of the fifth. Anna Akelaitis’s two-run single put the Lady Tigers back in front at 5-4. Then Brooke Wehr (2-for-5 at the plate with three runs) scored on a Bangor error in the sixth, and Avery George’s RBI-single in the seventh scored Anna Akelaitis for a 7-4 lead that would hold only momentarily.
The Lady Slaters have made the Colonial League championship game in each of the past four seasons. They’ll look to add their second title in as many seasons after defeating Catasauqua last year.
Northwestern will have a bit of time off before returning back to the field for the District 11 tournament. Dates and times are yet to be determined.
Colonial League Quarterfinal
Friday, May 12
What stood in the on-deck circle was someone that Northwestern would have liked to avoid at all costs.
With the game-tying run on base in the bottom of the seventh inning, Wilson’s Devyn Losko was a batter away from getting her shot.
But Losko never got to the batter’s box.
Wilson’s Morgan Casciole lined out to first base to end the game and Northwestern edged the Warriors, 4-3, on Friday evening at Pates Park in Allentown in the Colonial League quarterfinals. The win advances the Tigers to the semifinals against No. 1 seed Bangor.
“It was nice not having to face her [Losko],” Tiger head coach Josh Zimmerman said. “We were hoping we could get through that eight-nine spot. I think they scattered one hit in the seventh, but we were able to battle through and make sure we came away with the win.”
After Tiger sophomore pitcher Emily Akelaitis allowed a hit to open the bottom half of the seventh, Losko waited for her turn to potentially produce the game-tying run. She previously scored a run in the third inning and was intentionally walked with a runner on base in the fifth.
Instead, Akelaitis got lead-off hitter Hannah Fabian to pop out and Casciole to line out, advancing the Tigers into Tuesday semis.
“So much adrenaline was going through me,” Akelaitis said. “But I just had to keep my cool, relax, keep my composure and go hard at them like I never had before.”
“They were able to jump on her and grab the one early on us, but she settled in really nicely there towards the end,” Zimmerman said. “It sort of worked out. We got eight, nine, top for the seventh. The game worked out for us in that fashion. We were able to score the runs when we needed to.”
Wilson (15-6) got on the scoreboard first when Ashley Errico’s groundout scored Brianna Cayle in the bottom of the second inning. Northwestern, however, quickly responded in the top of the third after senior Brooke Wehr lined a single into center field to score Kayla Mitman.
It didn’t take long for Wilson to regain the lead. Hailey Rodriguez blasted a two-run home run in the bottom half of the third to put the Warriors back in front, 3-1.
“We’ve had a couple of comebacks, and they are always in it,” Zimmerman said. “There is never a game where we felt it is out reach. Today was a testament to that, their hard work and determination to get the win.”
Northwestern (13-7) did not quit despite the deficit. After Wehr walked with the bases loaded to bring home Mitman in the fifth, Jess Badman reached base on a Wilson error. Wehr and Avery George came around to score and push Northwestern’s lead to 4-3, which would hold for the final two-and-a-half innings.
“I was super confident in myself, but most of all I was super confident in my team,” Akelaitis said. “I knew when I went out there, my team would be right behind me that entire time.”
After allowing three runs on three hits in the first three innings, Akelaitis calmed down in the circle. She allowed just two hits the rest of the way and recorded one-two-three innings in the fourth and sixth frames.