ORWIGSBURG Palmerton pitcher Martina Herring and her defense worked through numerous jams during Wednesday's District 11 Class AA semifinal matchup against Pine Grove.
Unfortunately for the Blue Bombers, they couldn't get out of the final one.
After stranding eight Cardinal runners through the first six innings, Palmerton's magic finally ran out as Pine Grove pushed across two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to pull out a 3-2 victory and earn a berth in today's district final.
"The game was in our control," said Bomber head coach Glenn Reimer. "We had trouble getting the ball over the plate there, and they're a disciplined team.
"We worked so hard and practiced all the time because we knew if we wanted to go somewhere we had to be committed. It showed today. But at the end, they just got the better of us on the scoreboard."
With Palmerton clinging to a one-run lead, the Cardinals' Keandra Koons walked and stole second to start the home seventh. Samantha Bertasavage followed with another free pass, and when the ball got away on ball four, Koons raced to third. Amanda Kemmerling then tied the game by poking an RBI single. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Courtney Brown's fly to center chased home Bertasavage with the winning run.
"We've had quite a few seventh inning wins," said Pine Grove mentor Alan Felty. "It's something we're used to doing. I felt pretty confident going to the last inning because we had the top of our lineup coming up. We didn't take advantage of many of our opportunities today, but we were resilient enough to come back and get it done in the one inning that mattered the most."
Ironically, one of those missed opportunities ended up sparking the Bombers (17-6).
The Cardinals looked like they had taken a 2-0 lead in the third when Koons came home on a fly to left and a bad throw allowed another runner to score. Koons, however, left the base too early and Palmerton appealed. The appeal was upheld and both runs came off the board.
"We felt the momentum change there," said Reimer.
Michelle Rickert became the Bombers' first baserunner by working Pine Grover hurler Ethel Santai for a walk to open the fourth. Janel Tracy moved Rickert to second with a single and both runners executed a double steal after the first out. Santai got a strikeout, one of 14 on the day for the junior righty, for the second out but a passed ball allowed Rickert to sprint home for a 1-0 advantage. Lauren Campbell quickly made it 2-0 by drilling a run-scoring triple to right.
"We put the ball in play in that inning," said Reimer. "Against a pitcher like (Santai), who is very good, if you put the ball in play you make things happen."
"At this time of the year, taking advantage of opportunities is what it's all about," said Felty. "Ethel only walked one and that was one of the runs that scored and it set the table that inning for them."
Pine Grove got a run back in the fifth on Kemmerling's sacrifice fly to centerfielder Rickert, who had five putouts and made a couple of nice running catches. The Cards threatened in the sixth but came away empty when second baseman Emily Knauss snared a line drive.
"Our seniors made some great plays," said Reimer. "We felt we had them where we wanted them. In the sixth inning, which was huge, they had 5-6-7 up and I was hoping we could retire them a little easier to stay away from the top of their lineup in the seventh. It didn't go that way, though."
Palmerton 000 200 0 - 2 3 1
Pine Grove 000 010 2 - 3 7 0
Herring and Campbell; Santai and Stine. W - Santai. L - Herring.