By Kenny Varner
UNIVERSITY PARK – They battled like champions!!
The Lady Indians took themselves, family and friends on quite a post season ride, notching their first D6 title and finishing as PIAA Stare runner ups and TVL runner ups in the span of about a month.
But in the end, the group of feisty, never-say-die players fell 1-0 to Mid Valley Saturday at Beard field at University Park.
After a rain cancelled yesterday’s scheduled game, the Juniata softball team and Mid Valley Spartanettes matched up for the PIAA championship.
The Mid Valley Spartanettes have won five straight District 2 titles, starting in 2018 while Juniata posts its first District 6 title and also its first PIAA appearance.
It was a game of stand out hurlers as the Spartanettes sent Maranda Runco to the circle while the Lady Indians sent the phenomenal pitcher Liz Gaisior. Gaisior had her stuff working all day, striking out 10. Runco had nine.
“We were neck-and-neck with them the whole time. We were hitting their pitcher but we just couldn’t put the hits together enough to score anything,” said Juniata pitcher Gaisior. “I would say it was pretty much a pitchers duel.”
Offensively, the Lady Indians hit the ball hard finishing with four hits.
“We had a pretty good approach to the plate. Just nothing bounced our way. They made really good plays,” said Juniata coach Erin Cressman. “That’s what it comes down to in this game. I’d we did it we’d probably still be playing, maybe. There were so many things that went wrong on some plays and some that went well on others. but that’s just how it goes in this game. We had our chances but we left them up there
In the first, Gaisior led off the Juniata offense hustling out a slow dribbler down third, with one out.
Savannah Marshall put runners on first and second as she belted a liner into left field.
In the bottom of the inning, Mid Valley leadoff Runco, who was a terror at the plate with 18 home runs during the season, popped up to shortstop.
With two outs, the Spartanettes scored on an Indians’ miscue. Chiara Zavislak scored after the ball skidded out into the outfield after an errant throw on a swinging bunt. The ball took a bad bounce off the side wall and continued onto the warning
Juniata again got runners on in the second.
Alexa Kuhn started things off with a hit to right field. She was joined on base by Ava Lauver who walked.
But the two were stranded as the Spartanettes’ defense was able to get out of the inning unscathed.
Courtney Rebar led off the bottom of the second, has three HRs this year, 2-in last-4 games, goes down on strikes for Gaisior’s third strike out of the game.
Gaisior continued to strike out the side, heading into the third with five strike outs.
In the third, Mid Valley’s Jordan Carroll walked.
Lead off hitter Runco, who is going to Villanova, slapped a single between short and third.
However, the Indians were able to keep the Spartanettes off the board, keeping it a 1-0 ball game going into the fourth.
With two out, Cheyenne Kirk walked. She was replaced by pinch runner Ashley Piper.
But Runco shut things down, keeping the Indians off the scoreboard.
Gaisior sit down Mid Valley in the fourth, striking out 2-of-3.
Juniata’s defense came up clutch in the fifth, when Runco blasted a shot to right. It was caught by Ava Lauver. Lauver hit Frontz on the cut off and caught Abigail Mackey at home plate.
Frontz led off the sixth inning with a smash to right field.
Marshall battled off numerous foul balls before taking the walk, putting runners on first and second with no outs.
A double play from third to first, ended the momentum in the inning, sending the Indians to their last at bats trailing.
In their last at bats, the Indians tried to pick up the run they needed but were stopped by Runco and company.
Despite the loss, the Indians were given a standing ovation after the game to show the team that their valiant efforts did not go unnoticed, finishing their year as PIAA runner ups.
“We battled a lot this season. We’ve had our ups and downs,” said Juniata senior MacKenzie Lyter, “But I think we were all taking in the moment to be here and we were really really happy to make it this far. It was a tough battle between both teams. But they just came out of the upside on it.”
With most of their team returning next season, it will be almost a certainty they will be in the mix next year.
Mid Valley 1, Juniata 0
JU 000 000 0 – 0 4 2
MV 100 000 x – 1 2 0
WP: Maranda Runco
LP: Liz Gaisior
Multiple hitters: MV – None. JU – None.