Before the season began, West Greene right fielder Mackenzie Carpenter’s mom came up with a slogan to motivate the team.
It was “Unfinished Business” — referring back to last year’s loss to Williams Valley in the PIAA finals. Blue T-shirts with the slogan across the back were plentiful among the large crowd that poured into Nittany Lion Softball Park for Friday’s rematch with Williams Valley.
No doubt some of them are headed for the rag bag after the Lady Pioneers rallied from a seven-run, second-inning deficit to reel in the Lady Vikings, 9-8, in a memorable comeback in the PIAA Class A championship game.
“I’m throwing my T-shirt away,” said West Greene shortstop and spark plug Madison Renner, who drew a bases-loaded walk to force in what proved to be the game-winner. “We had one goal this year and that was to get the gold medal. Every day at school we’d look at that runner-up trophy from last year and it would make us upset.”
Yet two innings into the game it appeared as though Williams Valley would cruise to a repeat, scoring twice in the first inning thanks to a double by Morgan Updegrove and a triple by Autumn Calnon. The Lady Vikings followed that with a six-run outburst in the second on singles by Kali Whitcomb, Caitlyn Pinchorski, Jamie Neiman, another double by Updegrove, a hit batter and an error.
“I could feel it slipping away,” Renner acknowledged. “They are a great team, and I was out there thinking we’re gonna get mercy-ruled. But Coach (Bill Simms) said let’s just get one run at a time.”
And so they did, getting a pair in the second on back-to-back doubles by Renner and Kaitlyn Rizor. Then they went off script and shocked Williams Valley with four runs in the fifth on singles by Linzee Stover and Madison Lampe, a double by Carpenter and a single by Renner.
“We got up by seven runs and then they came back,” Williams Valley Coach Ryan Underkoffler said. “We had momentum, and it definitely took a turn. We had it again at the end, but we couldn’t get another run. We couldn’t make a play at the end when we needed it.
“We knew they could hit and we can hit. I was expecting an offensive battle. But I didn’t expect we’d score seven runs in the first two innings. Then they shut us down through the middle innings and they kept chipping away.”
West Greene finally caught the defending champs in the sixth with a double from Jade Renner, a single by Lexie Mooney, two straight walks, an error and then the lethal walk to Madison Renner.
But Williams Valley, which has only 11 girls on its roster, battled back in the sixth on a run-scoring triple into the right field corner to score Pinchorski, who had singled. And in the seventh the Lady Vikings threatened to spoil West Greene’s comeback when Calnon singled, went to second on a sacrifice and took third on an illegal pitch with one out. But Jade Renner struck out Neiman and then got Maddy Bordner to ground out to third to finish it off.
“Last year we lost in dramatic fashion,” winning coach Bill Simms said. “This year we won in dramatic fashion.”