South Side pitcher McKenna Smith thought she had retired Minersville’s Adrienne Kroznuskie on a soft liner to second base to start the second inning.
Then the first-base umpire made a call that eventually played a huge role in the PIAA Class 2A championship game. He ruled that Smith had made an illegal pitch, returning Kroznuskie to the batter’s box. And she launched the next pitch over the left-field fence. It was one of 11 illegal pitches charged to Smith, and Minersville took advantage of the miscues on its way to a 4-1 win and its 10th title in 11 championship game appearances.
“I knew going back to the plate what I had to do,” Kroznuskie said. “I was looking for my pitch. I knew I had to get us on the board.”
“That home run electrified our dugout,” added Miners coach Dave Homa, who collected his fifth title as head coach. “That was a huge call (on the illegal pitch). They get the batter out and, on the next pitch, she hits a home run. But I was shocked they went after the best hitter in the state. She is hitting .520 and has 203 career hits.”
The Battlin’ Miners got on the board three more times in the inning, an inning in which Smith was called three more times for illegal pitches.
“The umpires didn’t call it (illegal pitch) until the crowd started calling it,” South Side coach Amy Pieto said. “It was only when the whole side of the stadium started calling it that they called it. It made it difficult for her to throw strikes. But we needed to get more hits and more runs, then who knows?”
Minersville, which last won in 2014 when the current seniors were freshmen, tacked on three more runs — on a single by Abby Schoffstall, a walk to Emily Mealey, a single by winning pitcher Maura Bentz and a sacrifice fly by Maggie Wigoda.
South Side, which was the District 7 runner-up, drew first blood by scoring in the top of the third on back-to-back singles by Kaitlyn Woodling and Regan Hozak,followed by a bases-loaded walk to Smith.
When it was over, Homa posed a question asked by many: How did Smith make it all the way to the state finals with her delivery?
“There were two parts to that (illegal pitch calls),” he said. “The first four (pitches) were on the way she presented the ball. The others were because she crow-hopped., But if she was allowed to do that all year, why did they call it here? This is the wrong time to do something about it. But we knew she had problems with that in her last game, so we were looking for it and took advantage of it.”
For Kroznuskie, it was her third gold medal. She won one with the Minersville basketball team in March and the other when she was a freshman in softball. Schoffstall, the Minersville second baseman, one-upped Kroznuskie, winning three gold medals in three months, getting one in basketball, another in track and now in softball for the trifecta.
“At the Giant Center (for basketball), it’s so big that you can hardly hear the crowd,” said Kroznuskie, who is headed to Wilkes to study pharmacy and has no plans to do anything athletically there. “Here you can hear the crowd, you can hear everyone cheering for you.”