Kaitlyn Morrison already seems pretty much at home at Nittany Lion Softball Park.
The sophomore, who has her eyes focused on joining the Penn State softball team, was a big reason her high school picked up its first state championship Friday night.
Morrison was 3 for 4 and helped South Park to a 4-2 PIAA Class 3A victory over Pine Grove, enduring an extra-long rain delay in the process.
“It’s awesome,” Morrison said. “To win a state championship is amazing. It’s a good time.”
The slick-fielding shortstop with a cannon for an arm picked her school in eighth grade, had been to a bunch of camps already on the field.
“I definitely felt right at home,” said Morrison, who couldn’t count how many Nittany Lion game she has seen. “It just felt like it was a Penn State game.”
Her day included a long fly out to right in the first inning, a line single to left-center in the second, a double off the wall in center in the fifth and a line single to right-center in the seventh.
If she felt any pressure to impress the local crowd who would see her regularly in blue and white down the road, it certainly didn’t show.
“If it was (pressure) it was good pressure as you could see by the hits that she had,” coach Larry Mercurio said. “The kid’s a great player.”
The game was interrupted by a rain delay of 3 hours, 30 minutes just after the completion of the top of the first inning. Mercurio said some girls took a nap, others relaxed and others were bouncing around with nervous energy.
Pitcher Justine Dean, the lone senior on the roster, was solid on the mound. She gave up nine hits and only struck out two but didn’t walk anyone and got out of several big jams, including runners on second and third in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“It was tough. I got a little nervous,” Dean said. “I had confidence in my girls and I knew we were going to be OK.”
The final out was a line drive to her sister Jess Dean at first base.
Most of the Cardinal hitters were tough outs, with plenty of speed and a lot of attempts to push and stretch the defense.
“They are tough hitters,” Dean said. “This is the first team we’ve played with that many bunters, slappers.”
Olivia Lehman gave the Cardinals a chance, scattering seven hits to go with four walks and five strikeouts.
South Park struck for a run in each of the first two innings. Jess Dean led off the game with a double to left and scored on an error — a deep fly ball by Morrison that was caught then thrown away for a RBI — and Chelsea Carozza walked and scored on a Taylor Glowa bunt.
Pine Grove tied the game in the bottom of the second on a Maura Lehman two-out, two-run single.
The Eagles pulled back in front in the fifth when Morrison doubled and scored on Charlyn Blackburn’s fly to shallow right field.
They added an insurance run in the top of the seventh by loading the bases with Katlyn Pavlick — a Pitt commit — scoring on a wild pitch.
She still has to wait two years, but Morrison is pretty happy already about her college selection and enjoyed being a part of her high school’s historical moment on the field.
“I felt right at home when I came here,” she said. “I love the coaches, love the school, they have a big alumni association — I want to get a job after school. That’s really important to me.”