SCRANTON — Upset from an earlier swing, Abington Heights’ Dominique Emmett channeled her frustration to blast a pitch over the fence in left field for a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Emmett’s homer combined with a gutsy pitching performance from Paige Harris and several stellar defensive plays led to Abington Heights’ 5-3 win over Greencastle-Antrim in the first round of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 3A softball playoffs Monday at Marywood University.
“I was so upset after I swung at a changeup in the dirt,” Emmett said. “After that, I knew it was time to get down to business and I was really looking to make a difference.”
Harris walked two batters in the top of the first, but also recorded two of her four strikeouts to escape the inning unscathed, despite throwing 20 pitches.
“When she gets in trouble, she really digs down,” Abington Heights head coach John Kelly said. “She has so much confidence in her teammates and knows if she throws strikes somebody is going to make a play. Today, she was struggling a little bit and her arm was giving her a little bit of trouble, but she stuck in there and didn’t want to come out of the game. She has a huge heart and did a great job.”
After the early struggles, Harris found her command and didn’t allow another walk until the fifth inning.
Greencastle-Antrim right fielder Jessica Root registered the first hit of the game with a bunt single in the top of the third, but Harris retired the next three batters.
Abington Heights (16-1) exercised plate discipline to break the scoreless tie in the bottom of the third. Cassie Toth and Cassidy Bartkowski each drew a walk and Alison Kane reached base on a well-placed bunt just in front of home plate to load the bases with one out.
“Before we play a game, assistant coach (John) DeMatteo throws me two or three buckets of balls and I get bunts down one after another,” Kane said.
The next batter, Harris, drove in a run on a four-pitch walk and Emmett knocked in a run on a fielder’s choice.
Greencastle-Antrim tied the game in the top of the the fifth on back-to-back RBI singles from Ally Brown and Alicen Hoover through a gap on the right side of the infield.
Bartkowski reached on an error with one out in the bottom of the fifth and Harris singled with two outs to set up Emmett’s three-run shot to give the Lady Comets a 5-2 lead.
“Dom is one of those kids who can carry a team when she gets on a hot streak,” Kelly said.
Greencastle-Antrim (18-7) pushed a run across in the top of the sixth on consecutive singles from Liz Ward, Hannah Beeler and Mackenzie Oberholzer. Root also reached base on a error to set up the Blue Devils with the bases loaded and one out, but Harris was able to work out of trouble with help from the defense.
First baseman Marissa Lewis fielded a grounder and fired the ball home for the second out and left fielder Naudia Solan tracked down a pop out.
“I was just trying to get outs for the team and try not to let the runs score,” Harris said. “I always have faith in my team and I always will.”
Hoover walked to begin the top of the seventh inning for Greencastle, but Lady Comets third baseman Kaylee DeMatteo snagged a line drive off the bat of Ali Sherman and threw to first to force out Hoover for a double play.
Abington Heights, the District 2 champion, will play District 1 runner-up Bishop Shanahan (11-14) in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Patriots Park in Allentown.
“Making it this far has been amazing, I’m so proud of every single player on this team,” Kaylee DeMatteo said. “We put in 100 percent effort at every practice and it’s really paying off. Hopefully, we can continue the winning streak.”
Lady Comets claim district title
Paige Harris tossed a one-hit shutout with five strikeouts as Abington Heights dispatched Pittston Area, 5-0, in the PIAA District 2 Class AAA softball championship Wednesday, June 1 at Marywood University. The Lady Comets had last won a district title in 2007.
Kaylee DeMatteo led the Lady Comets with two hits and scored a run. Cassidy Bartkowski, Naudia Solan, Marissa Lewis and Nina Kozar each had a hit and RBI for Abington Heights.
Nick Wagner contributed to this story. Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.