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Bombers’ Gaffney dazzles in opener

The weather conditions proved it was an early season game.

The performance in the circle, however, begged to differ.

Palmerton’s Carly Gaffney was in midseason form Friday, pitching a one-hit shutout and striking out 13 to lead her team to a 4-0 opening-day victory over Lehighton.

“She threw the ball really well,” said Blue Bomber head coach Bob Hock. “She was on her game, for sure, which is a great sign for Palmerton softball. She’s really focused this year. She spent a lot of time in the offseason working on her game. And it shows at this point.

“To come out Day 1 in not the best conditions and have real nice control and good movement on the pitches, that bodes well for her and us. I know she was a little frustrated last year. She had an injury before the season last year, which kind of set her back prior to the season. This year, she’s locked in and ready to go”

With rain in pre-game and a cool breeze throughout most of the contest, Gaffney was still dominant. She didn’t walk a batter and went to a three-ball count just one time. Only two runners reached base, and both of them were stranded at first.

“I felt pretty good,” said Gaffney, who threw 85 pitches - 62 for strikes. “I was trying to keep the counts down, and I think I did an ok job with that today. We’ve been practicing really hard ... and we were all ready to start playing.”

The Palmerton offense was also ready.

The Bombers came out swinging, plating two runs in the first inning.

Sydney Frantz started the home first with a sharp single to center. After a walk, and humpback liner by Gaffney that fell safely in the infield, Palmerton had the bases loaded. Kelsey Balliet followed with a looping single to left to plate one run, while Emily Christopher drilled a single up the middle to make it 2-0.

“It looks like we’re deep throughout the lineup,” said Hock. “I certainly like what I’ve seen in the times we’ve practiced, but it can be different on the field. We had some Texas Leaguers, but we also hit the ball hard right at someone at times.

“We just swung the bats today. We didn’t want to do anything crazy with small ball and stealing. Conditions weren’t the best for that. We wanted to see them swing, and to start with a non-league game it’s a good time to learn what you’ve got.”

Hock saw plenty, up and down his lineup. In fact, even his No. 9 hitter - Hailey Delgado - came up big.

Delgado delivered a leadoff triple in the fourth and came home on Frantz’s sacrifice fly to extend the margin to 3-0.

One inning later, Gaffney doubled deep to left. An error on a ball dribbled in front of the plate allowed her courtesy runner Hannah Barry to score the game’s final run.

Gaffney closed things one with a 1-2-3 top of the seventh, her fifth perfect inning of the game.

“Carly is a really good pitcher,” said Lehighton mentor John Zavecz. “I’ve seen her pitch over the years. I knew coming into this game we were going to have a hard time.

“We did some hard some shots ... Some of the hits we gave up were a couple dinks and dunks in the first inning, which led to a couple runs. Not many were hit solidly. Palmerton went to states last year, and we hung with them, so I’ll take today as a positive.”

LEADING HITTERS ... Palmerton had at least one hit in every inning. Gaffney finished with three, including the double. Frantz and Delgado both had a pair of hits and scored a run, while Balliet also ended with two singles. Lehighton’s lone hit came in the second when Eryn Mertz lined a change-up over the second baseman’s head for a clean single.

WEB GEM ... Frantz robbed Addison Chavanic of a single in the fourth inning when she charged in and made a diving catch of a line drive. Frantz, who played mostly shortstop a year ago, is in center field to start the season due to an injury to Mikayla Pengelly. “That was a great catch,” said Hock. “Our players are versatile. We have some infielders that play outfield well, and vice versa.”

DOUBLE PLAYS ... Lehighton turned two double plays in the contest. In the first with the bases loaded and no outs, Chavanic fielded a grounder at third and stepped on the bag for one out. She then threw to catcher Madyson Bergdahl to nail the runner heading home. In the third, Anna Laible snared a line drive in center and threw to second to double off a runner.

Lehighton 000 000 0 - 0 1 2

Palmerton 200 110 x - 4 12 0

Miller and Bergdah, Rogers (6); Gaffney and Balliet. W - Gaffney. L - Miller.

Palmerton's Hailey Delgado slides into third base ahead of a throw to Lehighton's Addison Chavanic. LYNN SHUPP/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS