SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — One big inning and one reversed call proved to be the difference in Abington Heights’ 5-2 win over Nanticoke Area in a District 2 Class 3A softball semifinal game on Friday afternoon.
“I couldn’t be happier for this group of seniors,” Abington Heights head coach John Kelly said. “They got knocked out early the last couple years and had a goal at the beginning of the season to make the district title game.”
Fourth-seeded Nanticoke, the defending district champions, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a RBI groundout from Jenna Lipowski after Rachel Roccograndi led off the game with a single and Kiera Brown drove a double down the left field line. Abington Heights pitcher Paige Harris struck out the next two batters, Miranda Bohn and Cassie Novakowski, to prevent further damage.
“She’s a bulldog (on the mound),” Kelly said of Harris. “When the pressure is on, that’s when she’s at her best. Today, she had the look in her eye that they weren’t going to beat her.”
Harris struck out six batters in the first three innings and didn’t allow another batter to reach base until Lipowski drew a walk to start the fourth.
“She really kept the ball moving which was huge for us because we needed to keep them off balance,” Abington Heights catcher Dominique Emmett said.
Abington Heights’ offense got rolling in the bottom of the third. Cassidy Bartkowski led off the inning with a line drive single and, after a sacrifice bunt from Alison Kane, Harris drove her in. The next batter, Emmett, launched a two-run home run over the fence in left-center field to give the Lady Comets a 3-1 lead.
“I look to contribute during every at-bat,” Emmett said. “I was relaxed and knew it (was gone) when it hit the bat. It was exciting.”
Nanticoke (13-4) appeared to score in the top of the fourth, but the run was disallowed after an appeal.
Lipowski walked to start the inning and Bohn lined a double to left field, but it was determined Lipowski failed to touch third base on her scamper home.
“Our baserunner clearly said she touched third base,” Nanticoke Area head coach Ryan Stetz said. “The base was kicked off its foundation and there were no spike marks at third base. The umpire had the final ruling and called her out.”
Vanessa Tocket’s RBI single, scored Bohn, who doubled, to cut the Trojanettes deficit to one run going to the bottom of the sixth.
That’s when Abington Heights added two big insurance runs.
Nina Kozar, Cassie Toth and Bartkowski contributed three consecutive infield singles to start the inning and Kane drove in two runs with a single that rolled just past the reach of Novakowski at second base.
“We gave Alison the Most Improved Player Award at our team banquet,” Kelly said. “She’s always been a great defensive player and lately her offense has really come around. I was happy to see her get a big hit two games in a row.”
Top-seed Abington Heights (14-1) will play sixth-seeded Pittston Area (12-6) at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at Marywood University for the District 2 Class 3A championship.
“It’s a great feeling and we’re not ready to be done yet,” Emmett said. “We definitely feel like we’re ready to keep going.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.