By Lisa Byers
May 28, 2013 7:00 a.m. HARBORCREEK TOWNSHIP —
Rachel DiBartolomeo had the Saegertown fans roaring following her triple to lead off the District 10 Class A softball championship game on Monday at Penn State Behrend.
Just moments later, though, that crowd grew deathly silent. There wasn’t even so much as a whisper as starting pitcher Arianna Hanley laid crumpled over writhing in pain outside the first base path.
“I instantly saw an X-ray of her femur,” Saegertown coach Mark McKissock said. “And it was broke in half. That is what crossed my mind. I hoped that she was O.K. not just for the game or for the team, but for herself.”
But as Hanley has proven time and time again, nothing, not even an obvious leg injury, can keep her from doing her job. And what a job she did Saturday afternoon.
Hanley threw seven scoreless innings and drove in two of the Panthers’ five runs as Saegertown beat Iroquois 5-0 to capture its second straight District 10 Class A title.
The Panthers moved to 17-3 on the year and earned a berth in the PIAA Class A state playoffs. Saegertown will face the WPIAL runner-up — either Neshannock or Carmichaels — in the opening round tentatively scheduled for Monday at Penn State Behrend.
Iroquois ended its season at 15-6.
“When it comes to the postseason, Ari steps it up another notch,” McKissock said. “She’s got another gear. It happened last year. Before the playoffs (last year) we were a little concerned about how far we would go and if we could make the District 10 finals and so on. But she just brings it to the next level.”
Hanley suffered an apparent thigh injury while driving in the lone run the Panthers would need yesterday.
DiBartolomeo, as mentioned, led off the inning with a ball to the fence in center field for a triple. Hanley stepped to the plate, and as instructed, laid down a bunt that was fielded just in front of home plate. As Hanley made her last stride toward first base, she stepped awkwardly and fell hard onto the grass.
Hanley was called out on the play. Meanwhile, DiBartolomeo had made a dash for the plate to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
Hanley remained on the ground for several minutes as she was attended to by a sports trainer and members of the Panthers’ coaching staff. Her teammates stood nervously in the dugout.
“We all thought it was over,” Saegertown senior third baseman McKenna Morian said.
The senior ace gingerly rose to her feet, took a deep breath and jogged off the field to a collective sigh from the Saegertown sideline.
“When I came back to the sidelines, Jess Tomiczek said, ‘Ari don’t you ever scare me like that again,’” Hanley said. “I said, ‘Don’t worry. I scared myself.’ They were all just trying to pick me up and ask if I was O.K.
“I said, ‘I’m good. I’m good.’”
Then began her masterpiece.
Hanley allowed just three hits. She did get herself in a couple of jams, but with the help of an outstanding defense behind her, was able to work out of each and every one.
In the first inning, Iroquois had a runner on second with one out. But Hanley coaxed two pop-outs to end the inning with no damage.
Then in the second inning, Allison Kaliszewski led things off for Iroquois with a single, but was quickly removed from the bases on a fielder’s choice grounder that Elizabeth Lilly scooped up at first base and threw to Becca Siple at second for the out.
The Panthers gave Hanley some breathing room with a two-run third inning with some help from Hanley. Hanley singled with one out, stole second and then came all the way around to score on a grounder by Jaricka Simmerman that was bobbled by the pitcher.
Simmerman scored on a line drive by Lexi Palmer that went off the glove of an out-reached Braves’ shortstop.
Twice more Iroquois looked to get on the board.
In the fourth, Jennifer Johnson doubled with one out, but did not score. In the fifth, a grounder by Emily Martin went under the glove of Hanley for an error. Palmer picked up her pitcher during the next at-bat when she went back and made a difficult catch on a pop-up inside the grass and threw onto first base for the double play.
“We didn’t hit,” Iroquois coach Julie Parker said. “We usually put up eight or nine hits a game and it wasn’t there (yesterday). Over aggressive … I’m not really sure what was happening. We just weren’t taking the barrel to the ball.
“I thought it would be a high-scoring game. I figured 8-5, 8-6, but we didn’t put up our runs. (Saegertown is) a tough team. They’re aggressive. They’re athletic. They’re disciplined. They’re well-coached. And I think they will go far.”
Saegertown tacked on two more runs in the seventh inning. DiBartolomeo reached on a two-base error and scored on a single by Hanley. Hanley scored on a fielder’s choice by Palmer.
“They are one of the premier programs in the area,” McKissock said of the Braves. “We respect the them entirely. We learned a lot of what we do from them.”
Hanley, Palmer and Morian finished with two hits each for the Panthers. Hanley went seven innings, allowing three hits and one walk. She struck out two.
For Iroquois, Joanna Ragen pitched seven innings allowing three runs (one earned) on eight hits with no walks and six strikeouts.