FOUNTAIN SPRINGS - Martina Herring was in a zone. She had command of almost every pitch, but her riser was really on the money.
The Palmerton sophomore saved her best game of the season thus far, striking out 17 batters, walking two and scattering three hits in a 4-2 eight inning victory over North Schuylkill in a District 11 2A quarterfinal on Thursday afternoon.
It is believed to be the first Palmerton district playoff win since 1996 and 11th of the season for a team who had just won two games the past four seasons.
With the win, the Lady Bombers earned the right for another shot at Colonial League archrival Northern Lehigh a 15-5 winner over Catasauqua in another quarterfinal. The semifinal is tentatively set for Tuesday at Blue Mountain with a 4 o'clock start.
The Spartans entered the game with 17 wins and were a district semifinalist last season. It was the Bombers, however, who looked confident right from the start that surprised their foes.
Twice Palmerton jumped out to one run leads and the Spartans bounced back to tie it.
When the game went to extra innings, it was a different story.
All tied at 2-2, the Bombers went to work against North Schuylkill hurler Cassie Lapotsky with the top of the order. Michelle Rickert led off with a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and Herring moved her to third on a ground out to first. Katie Reimer laid down a fielder's choice bunt and when no play was made on her to keep Rickert at third, she raced right around to second base putting two runners in scoring position.
With Melissa Raab at the plate, Lapotsky threw a ball in the dirt that got by catcher Johnna Cappel and Rickert raced for the plate.
She knocked the ball loose from Cappel as she slid towards the plate to score the go-ahead run and Reimer, following close behind, also scored after seeing the ball roll away.
That was all the Bombers needed as Herring retired the side in the bottom of the eighth to end it.
"It feels awesome," said a relieved Glenn Reimer following the win.
"Martina sucked it up. It's hot, 90 degrees. She did what she had to do. She dug deep. She carried our team and kept us in position to pull out this win."
Palmerton put the first run on the scoreboard in the second inning without a hit. Sierra Miller drew a one-out walk and saw the ball sail into the outfield on an attempt to get her stealing season.
Miller raced all the way around to score.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Spartans tied it up when Madison Newhouser tripled to centerfield and scored on a wild pitch.
With the score tied 1-1 entering the sixth inning, Reimer decided it was time to game a bit and it paid off with a run.
Rickert singled to right for the Bombers first hit of the game and Herring reached on an infield error with both runners advancing to second and third.
Katie Reimer tried to squeeze home Rickert, but it didn't work as the latter was tagged out. Victoria Graver, a courtesy runner for Herring, managed to slide safely into home on a wild pitch for a 2-1 lead.
With two out in the bottom of the seventh, the Spartans still wouldn't quit. Courtney McGrath walked, moved around to third on a couple of passed balls and scored when Brooke Ennis hit a streaming liner off of Raab's glove at shortstop.
"I bunted my leading hitter twice," said Reimer talking about the late games to try and score some runs. "I was just trying to manufacture runs. The first time it didn't work, but in the eighth inning it did.
"The story of this team is that we don't quit. This team that we played had 17 wins. I don't think we had any doubt coming in that we were going to play well. And we did right from the start."
Palmerton 010 001 02 - 4 2 1
N. Schuy. 000 100 10 - 2 3 3
Herring and Arner; Lapotsky and Cappel. W -Herring. L - Lapotsky.