UNIVERSITY PARK — The tears poured out of Penns Valley’s Tangie Lyons like the rain that had caused the annual Pennsylvania Softball Coaches Association All-Star Game to be postponed from the previous Thursday.
The emotion of the moment was overwhelming, considering what Lyons had gone through this spring.
Lyons’ three-run homer was the key blow as she helped District 6 score a 6-4 triumph against District 4 in a 10-inning contest at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Softball Park.
That Lyons was even playing in the annual clash was a testament to her grit.
In a District 6 basketball playoff game against Blairsville in late February, Lyons tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee on a drive to the basket.
For many seniors, that injury would have spelled the end of their high school athletic careers, but not Lyons.
“Right after I tore it, I made the decision to not get surgery and play because softball is my favorite sport,” said Lyons, who also played volleyball for the Lady Rams. “I made it my goal to get back and play at least half of my season and I was able play three weeks.”
Maybe it was coincidence, but the Lady Rams, who opened 0-6, began playing better after Lyons rejoined the lineup. Penns Valley won seven of its last 10 before falling to PIAA runner-up Bald Eagle Area in the District 6 Class AA playoffs.
That could have been her final game, but she joined teammates Ashley Struble, Megan Houser, Nicole Harbaugh and Courtney Ironside in the annual all-star clash on Thursday.
“I didn’t even know this game existed until this year,” Lyons said. “I didn’t know they did this.”
She made a lasting impact.
With the game tied at 1-1, Bellwood Antis’ Emily Nagle, headed to Slippery Rock, smacked a one-out single to center. Philipsburg-Osceola’s Haley Frank followed with an infield hit as the speedy Nagle raced all of the way around to third.
Thanks to Lyons, Nagle and Frank could trot home.
Lyons crushed a pitch over the left-center field fence to give District 6 a 4-1 lead.
“I came up tonight thinking just hit,” said Lyons. who had one homer this past season. “I didn’t think home run at all. I just wanted to get a hit. My goal tonight was not to strike out and I did that.”
She watched intently as the ball cleared the fence and was greeted at home to the backslaps and high-fives from her teammates.
“Every time I hit a ball I always watch it,” Lyons said. “As soon as I saw it go over, it felt amazing.”
That amazing feeling carried over into the dugout as the tears flowed.
“Considering all that I went through this year with the ACL injury and not being able to play most of the season, it felt amazing for that to go over the fence,” Lyons said of the tears. “It was just and awful feeling sitting through half of my senior season and not being able to play. ... This was a special one for me.”
Teammate Struble followed Lyons by lining a triple over the right fielder’s head. She scored what would be the eventual winning run on a wild pitch.
Eight players from Centre County teams played in the contest and others made impacts. Bellefonte’s Erin Pugh had a single and State College catcher Sharayah Simco made a diving catch in foul territory.
All of the runs for District 4 were unearned. Milton’s Taylor Batman doubled in a run in the first.
After District 4 scored twice on an error in the ninth to close to 5-4, District 6 tacked on an insurance run. After a walk, pinch-runner Nagle swiped second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Southern Huntingdon’s Hannah King.
Claysburg-Kimmel’s Kiersten Coho, who started the game, came back to close it out in the 10th. Coho, who pitched the Lady Bulldogs to the PIAA Class A title game, stranded two runners to end the contest.
She was backed by an infield that included Ironside (third base), Struble (shortstop), Lyons (first base) and Frank (catcher) who came back into the game for the last inning. Coho also doubled in the game and teammate Abigayle Kulick had an RBI single.
Lyons enjoyed playing with so many familiar and new faces.
“It was awesome getting to know these girls,” Lyons said. “It’s a good way to bond with girls that you’ve played with since starting on the varsity team. It’s so neat how you all come together. You’re all the same age. You’re all graduating. You’re all going into the real world and you get to learn where they’re going.”
Lyons is headed to South Hills School of Business and Technology to study sonography.
She’ll put off surgery for awhile.
“I want to join a slow-pitch league after I get surgery,” she said. “I’ve chosen not to play sports in college because I need to focus on something I’m going to do with my life. Sports aren’t going to be my whole life so I needed to focus on something that was.”
Thursday’s contest was her last fast-pitch game and Beard Field was the perfect backdrop for a great ending.
“It was wonderful playing on this field,” she said. “It’s always been my dream to be able play at least once on this field. ... That was just a great way to end my season.”
Notes: Philipsburg-Osceola coach Jim Gonder said that the math has worked out for District 6 to continue with two PIAA Class AA playoff berths for the next two seasons. That’s welcome news for a district that had two of the state’s Final Four this season. ... Several players area players were unable to compete after the postponement.
Follow Walt Moody on Twitter @wmoodycdt