COCHRANTON — St. Marys was on a mission.
That mission was accomplished when the District 3 champions completed a perfect run through the Section 1 Junior League softball tournament by beating host team Cochranton 17-0 in five innings at the Cochranton Athletic Complex on Sunday.
“Top to bottom we hit,” said St. Marys head coach Bob Young. “We had a good gameplan and it could not have worked any better. And I don’t think that score really dictates how good of a team (Cochranton) was. They are a really good team, as we found out (Saturday). I’m glad it ended up being that easy, but I did not sleep well (Saturday) night.”
St. Marys is headed to the state championships, which will be hosted by Berwick Little League beginning on Thursday. It is a familiar position for coach Young, who helped the team win the state title last year in Junior League and came two wins from reaching the Junior League softball World Series.
“We lost to the team from New York twice (in the East Regional),” said coach Young. “We could have won both games. So, who knows.”
The team is hoping this year will lead to the World Series in Kirkland, Wash. But first, the girls in purple had to get past the section.
“I have always said our district is one of the toughest,” said coach Young. “So I thought we could go back to states. But I had no idea that (Cochranton and Corry) were going to be such good hitters here. So I am extremely glad that we were able to get through this tournament.”
While all could hit, none seemed to pitch as well as St. Marys ace Kendall Young.
The right hander controlled the pace of the game from her spot in the circle. She wasn’t overpowering, striking out just four in her five innings of work. But she was accurate, placing the ball in zones she knew were hard to make solid contact. And her defense backed her 100 percent, making the plays as the team held Cochranton to just one hit.
“When you get up into these tournaments, it’s not about striking out 15 batters,” said coach Young. It is about letting the other team hit it, but not letting them hit it solid. Today we kind of kept everything away, especially with their big hitters. Because they are very good hitters.”
Offensively, the damage was done early and often.
St. Marys showed its power in the first two inning to take a quick 5-0 lead. Julia Jones got things going when she hit a three-run home run. The very next inning, Kara Hanslovan ripped a two run blast. After a scoreless third, St. Marys put the game out of reach.
Starting with an error, the first four batters for St. Marys made it on base. The big hit was a two-run triple by Hanslovan as the lead increased to 8-0. Hanslovan later scored on an error. That mistake proved costly as three more runs crossed the plate to make it a 12-0 St. Marys advantage.
The offense wasn’t done yet. Another error and a few more hits led to five runs in the fifth. The key hit — a two-run double from Olivia Eckels.
“It’s a group that has been together for a while,” said coach Young. “We have 13 girls and I can play any combination and feel comfortable. They are just all good hitters.”
Even with the odds stacked squarely against them, Cochranton didn’t give up.
The team just couldn’t get the break it needed. Where bloops from St. Marys found grass, Cochranton’s found a glove. Not even a shot down the third base line was able to get past the leather of St. Marys third baseman Jones.
“(St. Marys) were able to time our pitcher in the first two innings,” said coach Sokol. “They just had us, and ended up being better team (Sunday). But the girls fought hard, as much as they could. Unfortunately, we did not come out on top.”
Besides her work on the mound, the younger Young went 3-for-4 and scored four times. Hanslovan was 4-for-4 with a triple, homer, four runs and four RBIs. And Eckles was 2-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and two runs.
St. Marys 320 75 — 17 12 1
Cochranton 000 00 — 0 1 4
Batteries: SM — Young and Eckels; Co — T. Jackson, Sokol (3) and D. Jackson
Highlights: SM — Young pitched a complete-game one-hitter while striking out four and she went 3-for-4 with four runs; Jones hit a two-run home run; Hanslovan was 4-for-4 with a triple and home run, scored four times and had four RBIs; Olivia Eckels was 2-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and two runs. Co — D. Jackson roped a single for the team’s only hit.