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On This Date (May 20, 1997): Wreckers shock Marian

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Since May of 1999, the Times News Sports Department has featured an On This Date practically every day, highlighting an event that happened in the past. With the coronavirus putting a halt to sports locally and nationally, the On This Dates have been expanded to the stories that actually ran in the next day’s newspaper. Today’s On This Date story is from May 20, 1997).

By Emmett McCall


If Weatherly pitcher Becky Richie is looking for a nickname, she might want to try Houdini.

That’s because even the legendary escape artist would’ve been proud of the way Richie was able to get out of jams on Tuesday against Marian.

The combination of Richie’s pressure pitching and a clutch hit by Katie Jones were the difference as Weatherly stunned the Fillies, 4-3, in the opening round of the District 11 Class AA softball playoffs.

The victory sends the Wreckers into the second round of the district playoffs for the first time in school history. They’ll travel to Tri-Valley on Thursday for a 4 p.m. game.

“I’d have to say this is the biggest win I’ve ever had,” said Weatherly coach Margaret Brown. “I’ve been coaching here for 19 years and we’ve probably made the districts in 10 or 11 of those seasons.

“But this is the first time we’ve ever won a playoff game. That makes this win pretty special.”

While the victory by the 15th-seeded Wreckers over the 2nd-seeded Fillies might have been a major shock if you considered the seeds alone, both coaches were expecting a close game.

“I was very confident we could play with them,” said Brown. “They beat us 6-2 and 4-1 earlier in the season and we beat them 6-5 the last time we played.

“So we knew we could keep it close, it was just a matter of playing good defense and getting some timely hitting.”

Marian coach Michelle Borzok added, “I knew it was going to be close. I thought it would come down to who made the least mistakes and who got the big hits.

“Today, they got the big hit when they needed it and we didn’t.”

The biggest hit of the day - and maybe the season - for Weatherly came with Marian holding a 1-0 lead in the top of the third.

The Wreckers had used a walk, a line single to left by Kayla Romig, and a bunt single by Becky Richie to load the bases with one out.

The Fillies looked like they might escape the jam when shortstop Brianne Homyak turned a ground ball into a force out at the plate. But Jones then stepped in and belted a triple to deep center field that cleared the bases.

“That triple was the key hit,” mentioned Borzok. “We had trouble with her (Jones) before. The last game we played them she went 4-for-4.”

A leadoff triple by Tiffany Labanoski and Amanda Zacharias’ squeeze bunt produced a Wrecker insurance run in the sixth that made it 4-1.

But the Fillies didn’t go down without a fight. Michelle Kott led off the home half of the sixth with a single and Haley Dunlap followed with an RBI triple to left. Ann Marie Miller then ripped a single to plate Dunlap and make it 4-3.

A two-out error by the Wreckers put Marian runners on second and third, but Richie retired leadoff hitter April Kaczmarczyk for the first time in the game on a foul pop to preserve the lead.

It was the fifth time during the first six innings that Richie had stranded Fillie runners in scoring position. But none of those escapes could compare to what happened in the bottom of the seventh.

Mary Strubinger led off Marian’s final at bat with a line drive triple to left field. With the Fillies’ 3-4-5 hitters due up, Weatherly’s chances of getting out of this jam appeared slim.

“I went out to the mound and told our girls just to hold it together,” recalled Brown. “I reminded the fielders to check the runner back (to third) before they went to first and told Becky (Richie) not to panic and just keep pitching like she had been.”

The Wreckers and Richie listened well.

Homyak was the first batter and ripped a line drive to third that Jones managed to knock down. She then recovered in time to get Homyak at first.

Kott, who had hit the ball hard in each of her first three at-bats, was then retired on an infield pop for the second out.

After falling behind in the count to Dunlap, Richie worked back to 3-2 before getting her to hit a soft grounder to third that was turned into the final out.

GAME NOTES ... The Fillies finished the season at 14-5 ... Jones had three hits and Richie added two to lead the Wreckers ... Strubinger, Dunlap and Miller all had two hits for the Fillies ... Richie struck out seven and walked two to gain the pitching victory. Kathy Gallagher fanned five and walked five for Marian.

Weatherly 003 001 0 - 4 9 2

Marian 100 002 0 - 3 8 1

Richie and Zacharias; Gallagher and Dunlap. W - Richie. L - Gallagher.

Weatherly's 1997 softball team celebrates its first-ever district playoff win. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Weatherly's Margaret Brown holds the game ball after her final game as coach in 2016. Brown was the head coach in 1997 when the Wreckers won their first-ever district playoff game. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO