MINERSVILLE – For the first three innings of Tuesday's District 11 Class A quarterfinal game between Marian and Minersville, the Big Blue Machine looked rusty, broken and out of sync.
Something just wasn't right.
Minersville needed a quick fix.
They got it over the final three innings, as the Big Blue Machine functioned like a well-oiled machine, en route to a 13-4 victory over the Fillies.
Marian held a 3-2 lead with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Minersville scored 11 runs over its last 2 innings to advance to Thursday's semifinal contest against second-seeded Tri-Valley (5:00 p.m. at Blue Mountain's Patton Field).
"They're not the Big Blue Machine for nothing," stated Marian head coach Joe DeAngelo, referring to the defending District and State champions. "They're going to keep coming at you even if they do have a few bad innings here and there. They battle you every pitch of every inning and, often times, if it doesn't break their way early, it eventually does."
The Fillies loaded the bases in the top of the first inning with only one out, but couldn't plate any runners, as a groundout and strikeout ended the threat.
Minersville then scored two runs in the bottom of the frame, on a Marian fielding error and a Leah Leshko double, to take the early lead.
Marian answered back in the second inning by tying the game at 2-2. With two outs, Jeanne Cannon scored on a Minersville fielding error and Ashton Galasso stole home on a double-steal.
Abbey Hill then led off the third inning with a home run to deep left field to put the Fillies ahead 3-2. Hill's homer was the first Marian home run of the season.
Over the first three innings, Minersville pitcher Riley Gerenda struggled by allowing the leadoff hitter in each inning to reach base. She allowed two hits and walked four batters in that span and ended the game with seven strikeouts and six walks.
Needing a "big inning," the Big Blue Machine got what they were looking for in the bottom of the fourth.
After two quick outs, Minersville plated four runs on four hits and two Fillies errors. Jayme Kerrigan and Alyse Ryan scored on throwing errors, while Maria Kostura (RBI triple) and Ryan (RBI single) had big hits.
"Maria Kostura had a helluva game today and two-out hitting is what you need this time of the year," said Minersville head coach Dave Homa. "It wasn't pretty and it was probably the closest 13-4 game in history."
Minersville then loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth and scored four more runs, with the big blow coming on a two-run single to left by Kostura. The Marian left fielder misplayed the ball and Kerrigan and Kostura came around to score.
With a 10-4 lead, the Big Blue Machine continued pouring it on in the next inning. With no outs, Minersville once again loaded the bases and a two-run single by Leah Leshko scored Dominika Rutecki and Lauren Leshko. Leah Leshko then came home on a sacrifice fly by Morgan Woodford for Minersville's 13th and final run.
"Our pitcher didn't have her best game today, and it took some time for our offense to get going," added Homa. "Give Marian credit, they came to play today. They were one inning away from taking everything away from us – bunting, running, everything. We couldn't afford to give up any more outs. Luckily, we got some good at-bats that were able to turn the game in our favor."
Leah Leshko had three hits, three RBI and two runs for Minersville (14-7), while Kostura added two hits, three RBI and two runs.
For Marian (11-11), Sam Faust had three infield singles, while Gabby Green had two hits, including an RBI double in the fifth. The Fillies stranded 10 runners on base.
Marian 021 010 0 - 4 8 5
Minersville 200 443 x - 13 12 2
Shad and Hill; Gerenda, Lescavage (7) and Woodford. W - Gerenda. L - Shad. HR: Marian - Hill (3rd, none on).