CENTER VALLEY – One bad inning is usually the difference between winning and losing.
In Northwestern's District 11 Class 3A quarterfinal softball game against Southern Lehigh, that inning lasted nearly 24 hours.
The Spartans four-run fourth was enough to propel them to a 7-4 win and into Tuesday's semifinals against Pottsville, a 6-2 winner over Blue Mountain on Thursday.
It was in the bottom of the fourth that play was suspended for a second time on Thursday due to a lightning delay. When officials checked the field, they deemed condition unplayable and suspended the game till Friday.
"It was definitely tough," Northwestern coach Jen Horner said. "You get momentum going and the game gets suspended two separate times. Right before the storm we had a really bad inning and it took us out of it."
The inning couldn't have come at a worse time. Northwestern had an early 2-0 lead erased in the third when Shelby Wilson scored on an error to give Southern Lehigh a 3-2 lead.
But in the fourth, the Tigers struck back. Kyra Barron led off the inning with a walk and Tori Papp followed with a single. Both scored when a long fly to left by Steph Hepler was dropped by Jen Godshall.
The 4-3 Tiger lead proved to be short-lived.
The Spartans banged out five hits in the fourth, including a key two-run double by Wilson. After the inning's final hit by Jen Hallowell, the lightning struck – literally – and play was suspended.
By Friday, the resiliency that the Tigers had shown earlier in the game was gone.
"We were on top two separate times in the game and it was tough to come back [Friday]," Horner said. "We just couldn't get it going again."
The Tigers managed just one hit on Friday, a single by Lauren Horner, who had doubled and scored to begin the game.
Barron, who singled in Horner on the first, and Papp were the only other Northwestern players with hits.
Southern Lehigh was led by Wilson, who was 3-for-3 with a walk and scored three times.
Northwestern graduates seven players from this year's roster in Jackie Wear, Nikki White, Steph Hepler, Amy Vaughn, Nicole Volk, Kyra Barron and Ashley Gimbel.
"We have some big shoes to replace," Horner said. "We just need to see how these girls grow in the next year and hopefully find some consistency."
Northwestern 200 200 0 - 4 4 1
So. Lehigh 201 400 x - 7 12 2
Papp and Wear, Williams (4); Tankred and Wilson.