Eighth title in nine years for Bears
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Pleasant Valley's Tracey Deubler slides safely into third base as Pocono Mountain East's Brittany Nayman takes the late throw.
EAST STROUDSBURG - Coaches like to say that the team that makes the least amount of mistakes will end up winning the game.
The Pleasant Valley girls' softball team defied that adage Friday afternoon.
Despite making some mental mistakes in the field as well as on the base paths, the Lady Bears eventually scored enough runs to make up for their miscues and defeated Pocono Mountain East 4-2 in the Mountain Valley Conference championship.
"I counted four mistakes in the first inning," said Pleasant Valley manager Steve Caffrey. "Fortunately we have a group of girls that can come back from things like that.
"We have a lot of older leadership and I think that worked out well for us today. In the end, the girls that hit the long ball for us were two of our older girls."
Things didn't start off on the right foot for Pleasant Valley (17-5) in the bottom of the first. The Bears failed to lay down a bunt with a runner on first and ended up popping out. They were then caught stealing third before being picked off at first one batter later.
Pocono Mountain East then took advantage of a Pleasant Valley mistake in the field in the second. The Cardinals attempted to lay down a suicide squeeze with a runner on third, but missed the pitch and had their runner caught in no-man's land. Bears' catcher Madison Shaneberger threw down to third, but saw teammate Rachel Sisco drop the ball into foul territory and allow the runner to score.
Pleasant Valley managed to tie the game in the third when Nicole Kregeloh doubled in Jordan Meckes. However, the Bears gifted the Cardinals another run in the fourth. East's Colleen Riley reached base on catcher's obstruction, took second on a throwing error and later scored on an Ally Roth single three batters later.
Just when it looked as if all of the Bears' mistakes might catch up to them, Hailey Marini stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fourth and delivered with a game-tying homerun that hit the left field foul pole. With one swing everything was even once again.
"I was just looking to get a hit," said Marini, who finished the day 2-for-2. "I wasn't expecting that at all. I just went up there with confidence and it ended up working out for me.
"It feels great to win this. I have been here since I was a freshman and I have really, really wanted this. Not only for me, but for the seniors that are leaving."
Caffrey admitted afterward that Marini's bomb made even him feel a lot better about his team's chances moving forward.
"That homerun made me feel a lot better at the time," said Caffrey. "Hailey is one of the hardest working batters that we have. I just wish she had a little more confidence in herself all the time. When we face pitchers like this when their speed isn't up there, I think her confidence rises and she takes nice cuts at the ball."
Pleasant Valley would add some insurance runs in the fifth and sixth. Meckes hit a sacrifice fly to plate Tracy Deubler following her triple. East centerfielder Emily Neil tried to make a great catch on Deubler's fly ball, but dropped it when she collided with the fence. Sisco added the fourth run in the sixth on a solo shot that left the yard in a hurry.
The insurance runs turned out to be big, as the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. Bears' starter Rikki Correll, who pitched well all game, stepped up and got her team out of the jam by educing a pop-up and a ground ball to end the game.
The MVC title is Pleasant Valley's eighth in nine years. The only other team to win a championship during that time was Stroudsburg in 2010.
"It feels great to be honest with you," Caffrey said on his program's run of dominance. "At Pleasant Valley, the staff is very supportive of what we do. I heard from the football coach, the wrestling coach and the soccer coaches today. They all wished us good luck.
"It's really nice to be in this situation. I have a great staff and a great group of kids that help me out."
PM East 010 100 0 - 2 6 0
Pleasant Vy. 001 111 x - 4 7 2
Smith and Braithwaite; Correll and Shaneberger. W - Correll. L - Smith. HR: PV - Marini (4th, none on), Sisco (6th, none on).