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Bombers’ season comes to an end

BLOOMSBURG – Timing is everything ... in life and in sports.

Unfortunately for the Palmerton softball team, the timing just wasn’t right for them in Monday’s PIAA Class 3A state semifinal game at Central Columbia’s Keystone Community Bank Field.

To be sure, Lewisburg proved it was the better of the two teams on the afternoon. The Dragons did about everything right on their way to a 12-1 victory.

The score wasn’t indicative of how close this encounter was through six innings of play, however.

In fact, had the Bombers’ timing been a little better, things may have turned out differently for the District 11 runner-ups.

Instead, Palmerton couldn’t get the big hit at the right time. Twice it juiced the sacks in the middle innings ... and twice it came up empty.

“We sure had our chances,” said Palmerton head coach Bob Hock.

While the Bombers failed to get the big hit at the key time, Lewisburg got plenty of hits - many of which came at the right time.

“This may sound really funny about a 12-1 game, but this was a lot closer than you realize,” Hock said. “They hit some balls hard that we didn’t make plays on, and we hit balls that they made plays on.”

One defensive play, in particular, by the Lewisburg defense stands out. That came when center fielder Grace Murphy made an acrobatic catch on Sydney Frantz’s deep drive with Alyssa Silliman on base that saved a sure run, and could have possibly prevented a big inning.

Murphy’s play enabled the Dragons to dodge yet another bullet - something they did in the first, second, third, fourth and fifth innings. Yes, that’s how many opportunities the Blue Bombers had to score.

The list of chances the Bombers had is long and frustrating:

• Frantz was stranded at second base in the first inning after a single with no outs.

• Megan Matsko reached second in the second inning after a one-out single.

• With one away in the third inning, Palmerton filled the bases when Frantz belted a triple to right center, and a walk and an error followed, but winning pitcher Kimmy Shannon dug in and got a pair of ground outs to end the threat.

• In the fourth inning, Palmerton was in grand position to piece together another rally. Matsko singled to lead off the frame and Maddison Green delivered an RBI for the Bombers’ lone run. But it could have been much more as Kaylee Strohl was hit by a pitch, and Frantz drew a one-out walk to load the bases. Once again, Palmerton couldn’t capitalize.

• In the home fifth. Cadee Manjone walked, but a fielder’s choice and a ground out ended the inning.

“That’s tough,” sighed Hock. “You know you get so close and don’t push those runs across … that deflates the offense and inflates them.”

Ken Wagner, the winning manager, knew that his team survived some threatening rallies by Palmerton.

“I’ll tell you we avoided some danger there a few times,” Wagner said. “Our defense did a great job when it needed to. We’re a pretty good hitting team, and we did have some timely hits. But that’s been the way we’ve played all season.”

The Bombers needed to take advantage of those scoring opportunities because Lewisburg came out swinging.

The Dragons scored twice in the first inning when Carly Wagner singled, Erin Field ripped an RBI double, and Alexis Walter added an RBI ground out.

The Dragons added a four spot in the third inning, sending eight batters to the plate and banging out four hits. Field singled, and Sydney Bolinsky hustled her way on with an infield hit, before Walter drew a bases on balls to load the sacks. Murphy then delivered an RBI single, an error allowed two more runners to score, and Shannon skied out for a sacrifice RBI.

“We battled; Hock said. “One big hit and we make a game of it.”

Instead, it was the Dragons who kept getting the big hits, something they did against in the seventh - erupting for six more runs to blow the game open.

Lewisburg sent 11 batters to the plate in the frame and pounded out seven hits - including doubles off the bats of Walter, Shannon and Field.

“It wasn’t to be today,” Hock said.

For a Bomber team that time-and-time again this season delivered in the clutch, the season came to an end one step short of a state championship.

UP NEXT ... Lewisburg will face Avenworth, a 9-2 winner over Bald Eagle Area in the other semifinal game, on Thursday for the 3A State Championship.

MOVING ON ... Senior starters Alyssa Silliman and Kaylee Strohl, along with classmates Madalynn Moyer and Shannon Dougherty, have been vital in helping the Blue Bombers maintain such a high level of play throughout their careers.

Lewisburg 204 000 6 – 12 14 1

Palmerton 000 100 0 – 1 4 2

Shannon, Water (7) and Bolinsky; Gaffney and Balliet. W – Shannon L – Gaffney

Palmerton catcher Kelsey Balliet, left, is unable to make the catch as Lewisburg's Sydney Bolinsky scores during the third inning of Monday's PIAA Class 3A semifinal game.
Palmerton's Sydney Frantz, right, makes a diving attempt on a hit up the middle off the bat of Lewisburg's Erin Field as Carley Wagner advances to second base safely.
Palmerton's Sydney Frantz, right, takes the throw at second as Lewisburg's Kimmy Shannon makes it safely into the bag for a double.
An outfield fly off the bat of Lewisburg's Kimmy Shannon drops in front of Palmerton's Kaylee Strohl, right, who would hit it with her knee toward Madison Green before Green would make the throw to second base.