By Jim Hunter
What happens when you combine small ball with a couple blasts?
A lopsided verdict.
Beginning its quest to repeat as Distirct 10 Class A champion, Saegertown used its wheels and a three-run home run from McKenna Morian for an 11-1 victory over Reynolds on Saturday afternoon in semifinal action at Penn State Behrend.
The Lady Panthers (16-3) will play Iroquois on Monday at noon at Penn State Behrend for the D-10 championship.
SHS coach Mark McKissock is looking forward to the showdown.
“Iroquois is a quality program,” he said. “We try to imitate them. We have scrimmaged them a few times and they are good. We have a lot of respect for their program.”
As for the win over Reynolds, McKissock was extremely pleased with his team’s effort.
“For the most part, we played a clean game ... which I’m very happy about,” he said. “We made the defensive plays when we had to and got some clutch hits.”
McKissock plays aggressive ball and Reynolds got an early dosage of it.
Without the benefit of a hit, Saegertown jumped out to 3-0 first-inning lead as the Panthers capitalized on two walks and a Raiders’ error. Arianna Hanley and Jaricka Simmerman scored on passed balls and the hustling Lexi Palmer crossed home plate when Reynolds committed a throwing error.
“Our goal is always to score first,” said McKissock.
After the small-ball strategy, the Lady Panthers went long ball in the second and sixth innings.
Freshman Becca Siple, McKissock’s No. 9 stick, belted a run-scoring triple in the second and later scored on Hanley’s fielder’s choice to increase the Lady Panthers’ lead to 5-1.
In the sixth, Palmer — after hearing McKissock’s encouraging words, “drive one” — drilled a lead-off triple and Morian followed with her aforementioned three-run bomb. Hanley capped off Saegertown’s six-run inning with a two-run single.
Speaking of Hanley, the Panthers’ ace hurler stymied the Raiders with her assortment of pitches — scattering seven hits while striking out three and walking one.
The crafty Hanley pitched herself out of three jams.
After yielding one run in the first inning and with runners on second and third, Hanley defused the Raiders’ rally by retiring Alaura Straka on a groundout.
In the fourth, Straka and Madison Rhoades lined consecutive one-out singles, but were stranded as Hanley retired Maggie Ringer on a grounder and Danielle Babcock on a line drive to shortstop Siple.
Hanley was in a real pressure cooker in the fifth — bases loaded and none out.
After Hailey Gearhart popped out, Hanley retired Kristen Shearer on a fielder’s choice as Siple gunned out Paige Baker at the plate. Hanley took care of the third out by striking out the next Raiders’ batter on three pitches.
Next up: Iroquois.
SHS lead-off batter Rachel DiBartolomeo was two-for-three and Hanley and Morian each drove in three runs.
Palmer, McKissock’s second baseman, made the defensive play of the game with a diving stop on Gearhart’s hard-hit grounder in the third inning.