Minersville defeats NL for 2A title
ALLENTOWN - Jamie Kuehn has seen the success of Minersville’s softball program first-hand.
He got to watch another group of Battlin’ Miners carry on that tradition and create their own legacy on Tuesday.
Minersville captured its first District 11 title since 2018 with a 6-3 win over Northern Lehigh in the Class 2A final at Patriot’s Park.
While Kuehn took over as head coach the year the Miners won their last district title, he has been on the staff for a little over 20 years.
The third-seeded Miners now have a chance to go after their 11th state title.
“We started the season 1-4,” said Kuehn. “We made some adjustments after that. I wanted to see the kids earn this because they did everything we asked them to do all year long. It was a good group of kids that worked hard. This isn’t an unfamiliar place for Minersville softball. But these kids haven’t experienced this. So it was important for this group to get a taste of that, and I’m just happy they got here and they did what they had to do.”
They had to do it against another storied program in top-seeded Northern Lehigh, which has won seven district titles - the last coming in 2019.
The Bulldogs never quit, and nearly erased a four-run deficit in the contest.
Senior Jordyn Hemingway, who will be attending Fairleigh Dickinson University, launched a two-run blast to right center field in the bottom of the third to cut the deficit to 4-2. The rally started with a one-out triple from Kylee Snyder.
“That was a special hit for her,” Bulldogs’ coach Kate Farber said of Hemingway. “She’s had a very successful career. She had a great day. That’s what we expect from Jordyn.”
After starter Emma Smith recorded a 1-2-3 top of the fourth inning with two strikeouts, Northern Lehigh struck again in the bottom of the frame when Skyler Horack’s sacrifice fly brought home Peyton Hoffman to make it 4-3.
But Minersville starter Kaycee Raczka worked out trouble with runners on first and second and one out, getting a strikeout and a ground out to end the threat.
The Miners added two runs in the top of the fifth when Keera Brennan scored on a bases-loaded walk by Raczka, and Emily Hart later came around to score on an error to make it 6-3.
Hemingway led off the home fifth with a leadoff walk, and a one-out double by Kaitlyn Stock put runners at second and third.
But Raczka recorded back-to-back strikeouts to leave the runners stranded at second and third.
After reliever Lilyanah Watt put the Miners down in order in the top of the sixth, the Bulldogs got the first two batters on in the bottom half. Marisa Maehrer dropped down a perfect bunt to lead off, and No. 9 hitter Arabella Heintzleman followed with a walk.
Raczka, who had eight strikeouts, induced a fly out to center and got a nice defensive play from third baseman Lauren Hertz, who snagged a bunt attempt in the air for the second out.
Minersville intentionally walked Hemingway with two outs to load the bases. The move worked, as Raczka got a strikeout to end the inning.
Watt recorded another 1-2-3 inning in the top of the seventh, and Northern Lehigh had runners at first and second on a pair of occasions. But the Bulldogs couldn’t cash in, as Raczka got a fly out to center field to end the game with two runners on, stranding the last of 12 runners left on base.
“We have been successful all season at generating runs with hits, and forcing other teams to make mistakes, a combination of the two,” said Farber. “And nothing changed today in our approach. The lineup didn’t change. So I’m struggling a little bit to figure out why we couldn’t come up with that key inning, and that’s what we needed.”
Raczka also kick-started a three-run second inning with a leadoff double.
“It’s just confidence,” she said. “Every time I get to bat I know that I need to supply for my team and do good for them, and they really help me too.”
A double from Averee Horoschak scored Grace Sterner in the top of the third to make it 4-0 before the Bulldogs got on the board with a blast from Hemingway in the bottom of the inning.
... Raczka also competed at the PIAA Track and Field Championships this past weekend, placing 14th in the shot put. “I’ve been working a lot in the circle over the summer, and now,” she said. “But going back and forth with shot, it’s been helping with speed and rapidness.”
... While Northern Lehigh loses four seniors from its roster - Hemingway, Cadence Peters, Hayley Thoder and Jeweliana Andrews - the Bulldogs have a lot of talent already on the team and more on the way. “We have some key freshmen, our middle school team was 13-3, so we have some really good middle schoolers coming up,” said Farber. “How much more pressure could you get as an underclassmen to be in a district final, under the lights, Pate’s Park in a one-run game at one point? We’ll get there. We’ll be back.”
Minersville 031 020 0 - 6 6 4
No. Lehigh 002 100 0 - 3 7 3
Raczka and Horoschak; Smith, Watt (5) and Stock. W - Raczka. L - Smith. HR: Northern Lehigh - Hemingway (3rd, one on).