Like a pair of heavyweight fighters, the Donegal and Cedar Cliff softball teams took turns delivering thunderous knockout punches in the fifth inning of Friday’s PIAA Class 5A championship game.
Each team scored six runs in the inning, but Donegal came out on top 9-7 after taking an early 3-1 lead. The end result was reversed from the District 3 semifinals, when Cedar Cliff won 9-5.
“At the time (fifth inning), I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is like one of those fights where no one is going down, punch after punch,” Cedar Cliff coach Steve McCoy said. “For us to come back the way we did showed great resiliency.”
Cedar Cliff scored first, getting a run in the first on a single by Jimiah McDonald, an error and a sacrifice fly by Olivia Jordan.
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That lead held until the fourth inning when Donegal put three runs on the board on a double by Makayla Yoder, a walk, a single by Peighton Hornic and a two-run triple by Rachel Robinson, who is going to Virginia on a full ride for field hockey.
“She is the finest athlete I’ve seen in my 21 years of coaching,” Donegal coach Wayne Emenheiser said, referring to Robinson. “She’s on the U.S. national (field hockey) team. Plus, she’s a 1,000-point scorer in basketball and she tore her ACL in her junior year. She’s amazing.”
There was plenty of amazement to go around in the fifth inning as both teams unleashed their bats.
Cedar Cliff started it.
No. 8 hitter Karson Hastings homered well beyond the fence down the left-field line to start the fireworks. Naomie Englehart followed with a single and after one out, and Riley Keefer doubled in Englehart. That chased Yoder and brought in Sierra Neiss, who got an out before Avery Winchell singled and Olivia Wagner walked to put runners on first and second. But not for long as Maddie Sitler drove a 1-0 pitch over the fence in dead center to give the Colts a 7-3 lead.
No problem for Donegal, according to leadoff hitter Savanna Kolenda.
“We know we have the bats,” Kolenda said. “Today we used them.”
A walk to Emily Graham got things started. Another walk to Kolenda and a single by Morgan Biesecker accounted for a run and after a walk to Yoder, Kaitlin Witmer doubled to right center to empty the bases. Singles by Robinson, McKenna Berg and Neiss gave Donegal the lead it wouldn’t relinquish although it came close.
In the top of the seventh, Olivia Jordan doubled to right center to start the inning and a fly out to right moved her to third. But Neiss got Wagner to pop out to short and Sitler to fly out to right to close out the Colts.
“Our kids never quit,” Emenheiser said. “We were down 8-2 in a district playoff game and came back. They knew we could do it. They don’t stress a lot. They leave that to the coaches. But I didn’t expect them to get six runs in that inning and I didn’t expect us to get six runs. We’re more like a two-run inning team.”