SCRANTON — The first pitch Paige Harris threw in the district final landed for a bloop single. Her next six innings, however, couldn’t have gone much better.
Harris pitched around some first-inning nerves and finished with a two-hit shutout as Abington Heights dispatched Pittston Area, 5-0, in the PIAA District 2 Class AAA softball championship Wednesday at Marywood. This is the first district title for Abington Heights since 200 and the team’s first overall.
The Comets will face either Donegal or Greencastle-Antrim in the PIAA Class AAA playoffs on Monday.
“Paige is special and today she was feeling it early,” Abington Heights coach John Kelly said. “We talked a little bit before the game about having too much adrenaline and once she settled down she was phenomenal.”
For Harris, it was all about hitting her locations after that first inning. She faced Pittston Area runners on first and third at two different times in the first inning before getting out of it. She only allowed two runners from the second to the sixth inning.
After the first, Pittston Area failed to get a runner to second base until the seventh inning.
“I just had utter confidence in my team,” Harris said. “Once we got that one run we were going to keep capitalizing ever if it was late in the game.”
Early on, it looks as if Harris would need to be perfect to take the Comets to the title. Opposing pitcher Taylor Baloga was sharp and the game was scoreless for the first two innings. In the third, however, Cassie Toth reached on an error after a bunt attempt. Leadoff hitter Cassidy Bartkowski then laced an RBI double to left center to score the game’s first run.
Baloga settled down until the sixth inning. With the score 1-0 in favor of the Comets, Abington Heights poured in four more insurance runs for Harris.
Dom Emmett drew a one-out walk followed by Kaylee DeMatteo’s single to right field. The Pittston Area right fielder threw to third and the ball bounced away, allowing Emmett’s courtesy runner, Jane Mecca, to score.
A single from Naudia Solan and a double from Marissa Lewis plated Emmett and DeMatteo. After Pittston Area pulled Baloga, Nina Kozar finished the scoring with a single to right field.
“Insurance runs are the best runs,” Harris said.
The Comets didn’t face much trouble defensively since Harris was cruising. Pittston Area’s Lexi Felinski led off the game with a single. Harris then hit Taryn Ashby to put runners on first and second with no outs. Harris got Mindina Lieback to hit into a double play to end the threat. Toth fielded the grounder, tagged Ashby and threw to first.
Harris allowed runners to reach in the second and fourth via walks. The Patriots went down in order in the fifth and sixth. In the seventh, with two outs, two Pittston Area runners reached but Harris was able to get the final batter for the district title.
“I’m so happy for our seniors,” Kelly said. “The last couple years there were some expectations on them and we fell short. We had great leadership and this was their goal the whole year.”
PIAA District 2 Class 3A Championship
Abington Heights 5, Pittston Area 0
Williams ph `2`0`0`0
2B — Bartkowski, Emmett, Lewis. HBP — Ashby. SAC — Toth. E — Pittston Area 2, Abington Heights 1. LOB — Pittston Area 6, Abington Heights 5.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick