POCONO SUMMIT - It was only fitting that the Mountain Valley Conference championship game between Pleasant Valley and Stroudsburg's softball teams would come down to one run.
Yet, whereas the first two meetings were 2-1 and 2-0 respectively, Friday afternoon's contest had far more fireworks.
A four-run first inning by Stroudsburg put Pleasant Valley behind the eight-ball from the get-go and had the Bears struggling to fight back all day. Another four-run inning gave the Mounties a comfortable lead heading into the later innings, but the Bears managed to plate five in the sixth to make things interesting. Still, it wouldn't be enough as Stroudsburg defeated six-time champ Pleasant Valley 9-8 to capture the program's first-ever MVC title.
"I'm just really happy for the girls," said Stroudsburg head coach Maynard Frantz. "They have worked so hard. I am kind of a strict, disciplined coach and they put up with everything that I dish out.
"They come to battle every day. I told them at the beginning of the season that we needed to win one more game this year. Today I explained to them what that 'one more' was. This game was the 'one more.' We wanted one more win and this was it."
Due to a shaky start from Bears' starter Meagan Fitzgerald, along with some shoddy fielding, Stroudsburg (17-5) was able to score more runs in its first at-bat then it did in both regular season games combined. The Mounties scored four runs on two hits and and forced Fitzgerald to throw 41 pitches.
"I feel that was the key to us winning this game," admitted Frantz. "Getting out to a lead like that and making (Pleasant Valley) battle back was huge. I had a feeling that whoever jumped on the other team first would have the advantage.."
Stroudsburg tacked on four more in the fourth thanks to seven hits and held a 9-2 lead. Still, Pleasant Valley (17-4) did not give up and began to chip away. The Bears scored one in the fifth before coming up with a huge inning in the sixth. The locals plated five runs on five hits, including a two-run triple from Felicia Domenici, and got back to within one heading into the seventh.
"The girls started playing the way they are capable of playing after the fourth inning," said Pleasant Valley head coach Steve Caffrey. "They finally believed in themselves and showed a little more hustle. The first couple of innings we weren't willing to do everything we could to stop the ball. Stroudsburg took advantage of it and got the key this when it needed them."
The Bears picked up a two-out single in the seventh but could not do anything with it. Domenici and Jordan Borger led the team with two hits and three RBIs apiece. Teammates Hayli Marini and Diane Klaypatch each drove in runs as well.
"We have to put it behind us," said Caffrey, whose team lost their first conference championship in seven years. "It's going to hurt and it should hurt. Hopefully we learn from everything that happened today. Now we have to go after a district title. It's not out of reach. We fared well against every team that is in there, so we have to start fresh on Monday and see what happens from there."
Frantz, who is in his second season as head coach, was an assistant under Caffrey before taking the job at Stroudsburg. In fact, all five of Frantz's daughters played under Caffrey. Afterward, Frantz was just gracious for the opportunity.
"I just wanted it for the school," said Frantz. "They hired me. They put all of their faith in me. Being a head coach is something I have wanted to do for a long time. They gave me that opportunity and I wanted to prove to them that I was the right choice."
Pleasant Valley 002 015 0 - 8 11 1
Stroudsburg 410 400 x - 9 13 1
Fitzgerald and Borger; Borger and Noyes. W - Borger. L - Fitzgerald.