Brianna Jennings tossed a six-hit shutout and drove in the insurance run in the sixth inning to lead Wyalusing Valley to a 2-0 win over Northeast Bradford in the District Four, Class A championship softball game at Williamsport’s Elm Park on Thursday, June 2.
The Lady Rams, now 18-3, avenged two regular-season losses to the Lady Panthers with the victory.
Jennings, a senior, and Northeast Bradford freshman Chelsea Souto were locked in a pitcher’s duel through the first four innings.
In the fifth inning, Wyalusing freshman Ciera Holland came up with what proved to be the winning run.
Gabby Edsell, who led off the top of the inning, reached on a two-base error to left field.
With two outs, Holland roped a single to center field, plating Edsell for a 1-0 Wyalusing lead.
Earlier in the at-bat, Holland just missed getting a ball to land fair down the left-field line.
“It was really close,” Holland said. “I was hoping that they would call it fair.”
Instead, she got a better pitch to hit.
“It was actually the perfect pitch,” she said. “It was right down the middle for me to rip it out there. I was really waiting for one to come perfectly to me.”
Despite giving up the run, Northeast Bradford’s defense came through as Holland was tagged out trying to reach second after the play at the plate was too late to prevent Edsell’s run.
“Ciera battled, battled and battled,” Lady Ram head coach John Loomis said later. “That’s why she’s the DP. She’s been getting the bat on the ball against some of the better pitchers.
“She came through in the biggest game of her life.”
Laci Holdren walked to open the sixth inning for Wyalusing. After Bobbi Jo Loyack bunted her over to second base, Holdren scored on Jennings’s seeing-eye single through the infield to left field.
Jennings’s hit chased Souto, who had shut out the Lady Rams through 14 consecutive innings prior to the fifth inning, from the game.
Souto, as she had in her previous two outings against Wyalusing, kept the Lady Rams off balance with excellent location and her deceptive change-up.
But starting with Edsell’s towering ball to the outfield that was misplayed in the fifth, Wyalusing began to find the range, with two hard-hit balls for outs before Holland’s RBI.
In the circle, Jennings scattered those six hits, allowing just three Northeast Bradford batters to reach scoring position.
“It’s the happiest day of my life,” said Jennings, who will play at the University of Delaware next year.
“I tried focusing on every single pitch instead of thinking about who we were playing and the pressure that came from that.”
Wyalusing played stellar defense, especially in the fourth inning when it appeared Northeast Bradford had a shot to break through against Jennings.
Chelsea Epler robbed Haylie Phillips as she speared a hard liner to left field to open the inning.
Back-to-back singles by Nikki Emick and Taylor Keefe set the stage for a terrific defensive effort by Jennings.
With runners at second and third, Kelsey Carlsen’s bunt attempt floated in the air long enough for Jennings to make a diving catch. She recovered to throw to Holdren covering at third base to double off Emick, who had already reached home on the attempted squeeze play.
“Defense was very important,” an appreciative Jennings said later. “They did excellent today.”
Loomis, too, knew that his defense was a huge part of the victory.
“The big play by Chelsea Epler got them started,” he said. “They fed off that.
“Bri Jennings doesn’t get the credit for what a good fielder she is. The double play was a game breaker and a big momentum changer.”
Northeast Bradford, which outscored Wyalusing, 7-1, in the two regular-season games, wasted an early scoring opportunity.
Keefe singled to open the second inning and eventually reached third on Carlsen’s sacrifice and a groundout by Mindy LaBarre.
Jennings, who finished the game with seven strikeouts, fanned a Northeast Bradford batter to end the inning.
Souto and LaBarre held Wyalusing to just three hits, including a seventh-inning single by Epler. Souto recorded seven strikeouts and allowed two walks and two hits. LaBarre gave up one hit and one walk in relief.
The Class A district title was the third for Wyalusing’s softball program, completing a rare sweep of the three classes. The Lady Rams’ first title was in Class AAA in 1990, followed by the Class AA title in 2005.