Lady Tigers fall in district playoffs
Cailyn Joseph didn’t want it to be her final high school softball game.
So when the lone senior on Tamaqua’s roster had a chance to make sure it wasn’t, she wasted no time.
Joseph lined a single up the middle on the first pitch she saw from Northwestern’s Emily Akelaitis in the bottom of the seventh inning to score Courtney Hoffman from third base and give the Raiders a dramatic 4-3 comeback victory in the District 11 Class 4A quarterfinals on Tuesday.
“This is an awesome feeling,” said Joseph just minutes after delivering her walk-off hit. “This team never gives up. Time and time again we have found a way to win games like this all year.
“It’s definitely a stressful way to do things. But we’ve done it enough times this year that we all believe we can find a way to win even when we are trailing late in games.”
Third-seeded Tamaqua (19-5) was in that exact situation against the Tigers, trailing 3-1 entering the bottom of the seventh.
The comeback prospects for the Raiders appeared daunting, however, considering that they had the bottom three batters in the order due up in the seventh and they had managed just one hit in the three previous innings.
“We just told them it’s now or never when they came off the field in the top of the seventh,” said Tamaqua coach Jill Barron. “I only have one senior and I told the team that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to her yet.
“All year long we’ve had good production up and down our lineup so I wasn’t concerned about having the bottom of the order up – and you saw why because they provided the spark we needed.”
Taylor Donnon provided that spark when she led off the seventh with a bloop single that fell between three Tiger fielders. After a couple of wild pitches and a walk to Jane Kupchinsky, the Raiders had runners on second and third with no one out.
“I thought the key play in the game was Tamaqua getting its first batter on base in the seventh,” said Northwestern coach Josh Zimmerman. “That ball has to be caught. It set the tone for the entire inning.
“Championship teams make the plays defensively. For the most part, we did that. But we had a couple of chances to get outs in the seventh and we just didn’t make the plays.”
After a fly out, leadoff batter Courtney Hoffman delivered a clutch two-run single to center that tied the game.
With Hoffman on third and two outs, Northwestern elected to intentionally walk Miranda Chinchar, who was already 3-for-3 in the game. That set the stage for Joseph to deliver her game-winner.
“That definitely provided a little extra motivation,” said Joseph about the intentional walk to get to her. “But I was happy to get the opportunity.
“I didn’t mind the pressure at all. As a senior, I want to be the person in that situation.”
The victory puts Tamaqua into the District 11 semifinals on Friday against Bethlehem Catholic.
“I’m super excited for the girls,” said Barron. “I’m so proud of them for not quitting. They played all the way to the end. I couldn’t be more happy for them.”
For Northwestern (13-10), it was a heartbreaking end to the season.
“My heart goes out to our girls,” said Zimmerman. “We were three outs away from advancing.
“But it just goes to show that in District 11 softball, no lead is safe.”
Despite the fact that Tamaqua has had a number of highly successful seasons under Barron, the win was the first in the district softball tournament during her seven-year tenure.
Northwestern turned a sensational triple play in the third inning when Anna Akelaitis made a charging catch of a Joseph line drive in center field with runners on second and third. The Raider runners thought the ball was dropping and were caught off base. Both coaches said it was the first triple play they had seen in their softball careers.
Northwestern scored all its runs in the fourth on Emily Akelaitis’ two-run homer to left. Brooke Wehr had a triple in the frame while Jess Badman added a double.
Six of Tamaqua’s nine batters had hits in the game and all nine reached base at least once.
N’western 000 300 0 - 3 8 0
Tamaqua 010 000 3 - 4 8 3
E. Akelaitis and Wehr; Schellhammer and Zellner. W-Schellhammer. L- E. Akelaitis. HR – Northwestern: E. Akelaitis (4th, one on).