UNION CITY — After the storms cleared, Lakeland was ready to continue its quest for the Pennsylvania Section 1 Little League softball title.
The Lakeland squad had been unstoppable in the section tournament, outscoring Punxsutawney and Harborcreek 23-3 before Friday’s rematch with Punxsutawney.
On Friday night at the Union City Little League Complex, Lakeland was as consistent as ever, scoring in all six innings as it beat Punxsutawney 10-4 to claim the Section 1 crown and a spot in the state tournament.
“I was very happy with just the consistency,” said Lakeland head coach Sam Enterline. “Very happy with the consistent innings. A lot of times in a game, it all comes in one (inning). Whether you win or lose, it’s one inning. This one was very consistent. It was great to see.”
The Lakeland ladies beat Punxsutawney 10-3 in their opener of the sectional tournament and the story was nearly the same this time around.
In the top of the first, Lainie Harrington opened the game by using her speed to reach first base on a bobbled ball at short. Jaidyn Jordan followed with a base hit. Then all it took as a pair of sacrifice bunts from Ashlee Barabas and Emily Enterline to score Harrington and Jordan. Barabas also reached home on a wild pitch to make it 3-0 early.
Punxsutawney punched one run home in the bottom of the first. Laci Pode walked and Brooke Farmery singled her home to cut it to 3-1.
Yet the Lakers didn’t flinch. With two outs in the top of the second, Harrington tripled into deep left field and Jordan hit her second single to make it 4-1. In the third, Madilyn Enterline singled followed by an RBI base knock by Barabas. Barabas also reached home off an error at first to bring the lead up to 6-1.
“We beat this team the first time and a lot of times, your team could come in overconfident,” said coach Enterline. “We talked a lot about it and the girls responded.”
Yet, Punxsutawney never quit and kept trying to cut into the advantage. In the bottom of the third, a bobbled ball in the infield allowed Avory Powell on base. Farmery made Lakeland pay with an RBI triple into deep center field. Farmery scored on a wild pitch, making it 6-3.
“It was not an easy game. It was probably closer than the score says,” added coach Enterline. “At least I felt that way.”
While Punxsutawney kept it close to keep the Lakeland coach on edge, the Lakeland players kept Punxsutawney far enough away with consistent offense.
Jillian Mihoci led off the fourth with a single. Jordan’s base hit brought her home. Barabas then had a base knock to bring in Jordan to make it 8-3. An RBI single from Mihoci in the top of the fifth made it 9-3 Lakeland.
After a Punxsutawney score in the bottom of the fifth, Barabas tallied her fourth RBI in the top of the sixth to score Madilyn Enterline and make it 10-4. She wound up leading the Lakeland offense going 3-for-3 with two runs and four RBIs on a stellar night.
Savannah Thurber had a six-run lead to defend in the bottom of the sixth and she closed it out with ease. Thurber fanned the first hitter, drew a groundout on the second and following an error, Jordan threw out Bryna Hergert stealing for the final out.
Thurber earned the win pitching six innings and allowing three earned runs on three hits. She walked four and struck out eight.
“Savannah (Thurber) did great,” said coach Enterline. “(The rain) wasn’t enough to bother her too much. She’s played in much worse, but I’m very proud of her.”
Also for Lakeland, Jordan was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs. Harrington went 2-for-4 with two runs. Madilyn Enterline scored twice. Emily Enterline and Mihoci each had RBIs.
For Punxsutawney, Farmery was 3-for-3 with three RBIs and a run. On the mound, Emily McMahan went all six innings. She allowed six earned runs on 13 hits and fanned 10.
The state tournament is July 9-14 and hosted by Plymouth Little League.
Jordan Hansgen can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.