High School Sports

State College softball ends 6-year drought, captures district title

adrey@centredaily.com

As she walked through the athletics lobby of the State College North Building with friends Wednesday afternoon, Andrea Kling stopped and took a look in the trophy case.

Hovering around the softball hardware, the senior boldly told her friends, “Tomorrow, there’s one of ours in there.”

Knowing a Lady Little Lion softball team had not put anything in that case since 2011, Kling was intent on ending the drought. After State College dropped Mifflin County 6-3 Wednesday to capture the District 6 Class 6A title at Nittany Lion Softball Park, she succeeded.

“I feel like we always knew that we were going to be the ones to do it,” Kling said. “I thought it was going to be last year, but we got it this year.

“I’m an English major; I don’t even have words for this. It’s amazing.”

Kling paced an offense that pounded out 11 hits with a 3-for-3 day that included a triple. Brandi Triebold crushed a mammoth home run, and Kayla Hawbaker cracked a two-run double as the team earned its 22nd district title in program history, the most among District 6 teams.

The Lady Little Lions (8-12) will get a week off before returning to the Penn State field on Wednesday to face Erie McDowell in a PIAA subregional. The winner earns a spot in the state tournament.

It’s not a bad situation for a team with five freshmen, including the entire outfield, in the starting lineup. Only three senior starters are on the roster.

“We weren’t sure the kids were going to be ready for this moment,” first-year coach Jim Schaper said. “They stepped up big time.”

Kling also had a pregame talk with the young team, trying to settle the nerves.

She told them: “It’s just another game, just another field. They’re the same fans, same people. We’ve played this team a bajillion times before. We can do this.”

Among those who handled the moment was sophomore pitcher Emma Wolfe, who gave up eight hits while striking out two in just her second complete-game outing of the season after missing more than a month to illness.

“My coach teaches me to play with the pressure,” Wolfe said. “I try to implement that every game, every pressure situation I’m put in.”

The Huskies (18-5), who tied the program record for wins, had plenty of opportunities between their eight hits and seven walks. But they left 11 runners on base, including seven in scoring position.

“We had the runners in scoring position,” Mifflin County coach Jack McCurdy said. “We just lacked that one big hit. That happens sometimes.”

Hanna Kanagy took the pitching loss.

State College plated a pair of runs in the second inning on an RBI single by Kling, with the second run racing home when her infield single was thrown away.

The Lady Little Lions added some needed insurance in the fifth, begun with Kling’s one-out triple to center field. Hawbaker followed with a double, and she came home on Sara Conklin’s RBI single. Avery Cymbor finished it with an RBI single for a 5-1 lead.

“It was enormous,” Schaper said of the extended lead. “But at the same time I didn’t want us to relax too much. We have young kids. We can be up; we can be down.”

Triebold finished the State College scoring with a monster solo home run more than halfway up the scoreboard beyond the wall in left-center field in the sixth.

“Everyone was screaming, jumping up and down,” Kling said of the dugout reaction to the blast. “It was just euphoria. It was amazing.”

Mifflin County got one run in the fourth when Caitlyn Smith singled and scored on a Maxie Johnson double. Two more runs crossed in the bottom of the seventh with a two-out, two-run double by Johnson, but a ground out clinched the win and the district crown.

“It’s pretty big to be a part of (this),” Wolfe said. “We’re pretty happy to bring it back to State High and we’re going to try to keep it going.”

Gordon Brunskill: 814-231-4608, @GordonCDT

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