Tigers fall to BM in title game
Northwestern’s Emily Akelaitis delivers a pitch to the plate during Friday’s District 11 Class 4A softball championship against Blue Mountain. The Eagles earned a 5-1 victory. DON HERB/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
ALLENTOWN – It was the same heart and hustle that propelled Northwestern to the doorstep of a district title.
It just wasn’t enough to push the Tigers past one more hurdle.
Blue Mountain took advantage of its opportunities in key moments Friday to capture its first District 11 title, topping Northwestern 5-1 in the Class 4A title game at Parkland High School.
The Eagles took an early lead with two runs in the top of the third, and added three more in the top of the fifth, separating themselves in what was a one-run game.
“Every out is crucial, and you can’t give a good team like Blue Mountain any outs to work with,” said Northwestern head coach Josh Zimmerman. “And they absolutely, 100 percent, took full advantage of what they were doing.
“I like the way our girls played. But you can’t make those types of mistakes at this particular point in the season.”
Clinging to a 2-1 lead, Blue Mountain’s (17-6) Mattea Dayson lined a single up the middle to open the fifth. The ball was misplayed in center, allowing the freshman to advance to second.
After Northwestern hurler Emily Akelaitis recorded a strikeout, Bryn Russian lined an RBI double to right-center to score Dayson. A Gabriella Gerber groundout moved Russian to third, and Russian scored from third on wild pitch to put the No. 2 seed Eagles up 4-1.
Alyssa Youst followed with a walk, and moved into scoring position by stealing second base A two-out RBI single by cleanup hitter Taylor Hartman to left scored Youst and Blue Mountain went up by four runs.
“I think it’s huge,” said Eagles head coach Mike Rollman. “Coming from a program where we’ve never won a district championship. These girls believe in themselves. They believe they’re a team of this caliber. And they’ve worked hard to become this.”
In the top of the third in a scoreless game, Emily Maher drew a leadoff walk for Blue Mountain.
A hit by Dayson and an error put runners on first and third with no outs. No. 9 hitter Emily Brennan cleared the bases with a two-run triple to give Blue Mountain a 2-0 lead.
Top seed Northwestern (18-5) clawed a run back in the bottom of the fourth.
Senior Ashley Sisco ripped a one-out single up the middle for the Tigers.
Olivia Stofflet followed and dropped a perfect bunt in front of pitcher Peightyn Scwartz, which allowed Sisco to advance to second with two outs.
Adana Funk lofted a ball into shallow left field, and the ball was misplayed, allowing Sisco to score and cut the deficit to 2-1 before the Eagles took flight in the top of the next inning.
Schwartz had three strikeouts, and surrendered no walks for Blue Mountain. The senior walked just six batters and struck out 87 in 69 innings pitched this season.
“She kept us off balance, and give credit to her, she’s a good pitcher,” said Zimmerman. “You don’t get to this point without having a good pitcher.”
Northwestern threatened in the bottom of the third. Molly Mitman lined a one-out single up the middle and stole second base.
An Anna Akelaitis groundout moved Mitman to third, but Emily Akelaitis flied out to center to end the inning.
Morgan Farthing had a leadoff single in the bottom of the sixth. Ashley Sisco grounded out, and Farthing advanced to second.
The inning ended with a web gem, as Stofflet ripped one back to Schwartz, who snared it and fired back to second to double off Farthing off.
Emily Akelaitis had nine strikeouts and two walks for the Tigers.
“Hats off to Northwestern Lehigh,” said Rollman. “Emily (Akelaitis) threw a great game for them. We just came out on top today. Peightyn may have thrown a better game for us. She was able to limit their base hits, she was able to keep them off base, and she was able to pitch around some jams. She threw very well. A four-year pitcher here, she deserves it.”
SEMIFINAL STUMBLES … Both Northwestern and Blue Mountain fell in their respective league semifinals. The Tigers lost 3-0 to Palmerton in the Colonial League semis, while the Eagles dropped an 8-1 decision to Williams Valley in their Schuylkill League contest.
STILL SEARCHING … While the district title was the first in program history for Blue Mountain, Northwestern was looking to win a district crown for the first time since 2007.
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Schwartz and Hartman; E. Akelaitis and A. Akelaitis. W - Schwartz. L - E. Akelaitis.