Thornton’s Sixth-Inning Home Run Lifts Clarion Softball in D9 Semifinals with 3-2 Win over Curwensville
CLARION, Pa. (D9Sports) – Maya Thornton’s solo home run with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning led third-seeded Clarion to a 3-2 win over visiting Curwensville, the sixth seed, in the District 9 Class A softball quarterfinals Monday afternoon at Paul A. Weaver Park in Clarion.
“The one thing about Maya, she always has that one good swing in her,” Clarion manager Dan Shofestall said. “She squared up on it and did a good job with it.”
The Lady Cats trailed 2-1 entering the sixth but tied the game on heads-up baserunning by Cora Zerfoss, who scored all the way from first on a sacrifice bunt by Alexis Constantino when Curwensville first failed to cover third and then home plate.
“We had her running on the pitch,” Shofestall said. “It was heads-up baserunning. They left third open. They left home open. She just kept moving. She did a good job.”
That brought up Thornton, who crushed the first pitch she saw from Rylee Young over the left-center field fence to give Clarion its only lead of the day.
The Lady Cats swarmed Thornton as she reached home plate.
Thornton’s home run made a winner out of Sadie Rudesyle, who pitched very well.
Rudesyle had five one-two-three innings out of her seven-inning complete game and only got in trouble once, in the fourth inning when Curwensville got a pair of two-out base hits to score its only runs. That include a line drive up the middle by Emily Miller than shortstop Keanna Over nearly made a great diving catch on but had the ball pop out when she hit the ground scoring the game’s first run.
Overall, Rudesyle gave up the two earned runs on five hits and two walks while striking out 10.
“She attacked the strike zone,” Shofestall said. “I thought she was good early, and she finished strong. She pitched well. They swing at the ball a lot, so she had to be aggressive, and her defense played well behind her.
“I thought it was a good pitcher’s duel. You have to give (Young) a lot of credit. They have a nice pitcher and are well coached too.”
Here is what Zerfoss, Rudesyle and Thornton had to say about their performances.
While Rudesyle pitched well, she did find herself in some trouble in the top of the seventh but was helped out by a combination of good defense by the Lady Cats and poor Curwensville base running.
Miller led off the seventh with a walk, and Teghan Jacobson followed with a hard-hit single to center that would have put runners on first and second with no outs. But pinch runner Keisha Maines took a hard turn around second and continued toward third. Clarion centerfielder Sidney Kiser quickly recognized this and threw a strike to third baseman Alexis Constantino. Maines then tried to retreat back to second, but Constantino chased her down before flipping to second baseman Anna Reed, who absorbed a small collision, while applying the tag on Maines for the out.
That out loomed large two batters later, when Kayli Sedgwick singled to center to put runners on first and second with two outs inside of potentially Curwensville having the bases loaded with one out or the tying run home.
“We battled at the end, and they did,” Curwensville manager Allen Leigey said. “They really did. If we just wouldn’t have had the faux pas on the bases, I think we would have tied it there. But sometimes what you get. It was a well played game for the most part.”
Rudesyle then got Madi Bumbarger to ground back to the circle for the game’s final out.
“They are a good team, and their coach is a class act,” Leigey said. “It’s tough. It’s a tough loss. We will learn from it. It’s just tough because my six seniors were just really good kids to be around. I just wanted another day of practice with them.”
Clarion threatened a lot through the first four innings against Young, who gave up three runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five, but couldn’t score leaving five runners on base, all in scoring position, including three at third base.
“She’s been like that all year,” Leigey said of his ace pitcher. “She had pitched every inning of our games. She should have had more wins. We had a bunch of 3-1, 3-2, 2-1 games. She just battles and battles and battles. She walked 10 batters all season in 135 ⅓ innings, and three of them were intentional. When you get in the box, you know you have to earn it.”
The missed opportunities looked like they would hurt the Lady Cats when Curwensville, which didn’t have a baserunner through the first three innings, finally broke through against Rudesyle in the fourth.
Kayley Harnett led off with a single to right, and Young moved her to second with a sac bunt.
After Rudesyle struck out Hannah Dixon, she walked Haley McGarry , and Miller followed with the line drive up the middle that Over was able to get a diving glove on but not catch with Harnett scoring all the way from second to make it 1-0 Lady Tide.
Jacobson followed with a blooper to right field, and McGarry scored when rightfielder Liz Sarver threw to second instead of home making it 2-0 Curwensville.
Clarion was able to get one of the runs back in the fifth.
Carly Best led off with a bunt single but was erased at second on a fielder’s choice by Over.
Reed followed with a double to left, her second double of the game, and Johnna Rapp’s groundout to third scored Over from third to cut the Lady Tide lead in half, 2-1.
Then in the sixth, Zerfoss led off with a single to left to get the winning rally started.
“We caused the tying run, and the girl (Thornton) earned it with the home run,” Leigey said. “We were in position to get one-two-three, one-two-three and win 2-1. But that didn’t happen. It was a well played game. I’m pleased with how we battled.”
Clarion will take on second-seeded Coudersport at a time and place to be determined in the semifinals Wednesday. The Lady Falcons had their own dramatic win getting a two-run game-tying home run from Macy Gleason with one out in the bottom of the seventh and then scoring the game-winning run on a double steal in the seventh to beat defending District 9 and PIAA champion Elk County Catholic, 6-5.
“No. 1, they are a good program,” Shofestall said when asked about his team’s next opponent. “They’ve always had a good team up there. It won’t be easy.
“When you’re in the playoffs, the pitching is going to be tough every game, and the teams are going to be tougher the farther you go. I think our big thing is to come out and have a good practice (Tuesday) and come to the game Wednesday ready to go. We just need to do what we’ve been doing, playing good ball.”
• Clarion is no 14-7 and has won eight in a row.
• Curwensville, which beat Clarion 3-1 in the season opener March 24, ends the year 11-10 having lost six of its final nine games.
• In a class move of great sportsmanship, Leigey gave Thornton a “GT” sticker for her helmet. The Curwensville coach gives out stickers for good plays, and told Thornton she had earned it with her game-winning home run. After receiving the sticker, Thornton came over and waited for the media to be done talking to Leigey to thank him for the gesture.
• In a moment of fun after the game, Clarion volunteer coach John Stroup was caught by the EYT cameras singing into the microphone for no one in particular. When an informal poll was taken of the players, parents and coaches still left at the field as to whether to show the video or not, all hands shot up. So without further ado here is John singing (or at least attempting too)!
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