STATE COLLEGE – Maybe Bill Simms was joking but there was a lot of truth to what he said.
“If we could have talked them into a six-inning game, we had them,” Simms quipped.
The seventh inning has not been a friend to West Greene High School’s softball team in the PIAA Class A championship game.
In 2016, West Greene gave up the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning. And Friday afternoon at Beard Field on the campus of Penn State University, it happened again.
West Greene allowed two runs, the final one on a one-out double to the right-centerfield gap by No. 9 hitter Allison Huhn that gave Tri-Valley a 2-1 victory and the state’s Class A title.
This was the fourth time West Greene reached the finals and the Pioneers are 2-2 in the big game. Tri-Valley, the District 11 champion with a 25-2 record, was making its first trip to the championship game.
“We had a lot of runners on base,” said Simms. “We just never mounted a true scoring effort until the last inning.”
West Greene was nursing a 1-0 lead for 6 ½ innings. It came in the second inning when designated player Kaytlynn Walls got on via a fielder’s choice and left fielder Anna Durbin, who ran for Walls, scored when BreAnn Jackson laced a double to center field. It was Jackson’s first double of the season.
The Pioneers (21-3) nearly pushed a second run across in the top of the seventh. Taylor Karvan drew a two-out walk. Lexi Six sent a grounder to the second baseman, Allison Huhn, who bobbled the grounder, then made a bad throw to first baseman, Sydney Schley, that bounced off the dugout fence.
Karvan kept going around third base and Schley threw the ball to catcher Brittany Rice, who made the tag. The umpire called Karvan out but photographs showed Karvan sliding under the tag.
“She was out. They called her out,” said Simms. “Until we get video replay like they have in the Women’s College World Series, we can’t worry about that here. We thought she was safe but we can’t argue about that.”
West Greene made some dazzling defensive plays, none better than your usual 9-2-5 double play.
It came in the fifth inning. Center fielder Grace Header beat out a grounder to second and Hune laid down a bunt for a single. Shortstop Gianna Poletti singled to right field and Olivia Kiger set everything in motion. Header turned third and headed for home plate. The throw from Kiger was a strike to nail Header.
Huhn tried to take third on the throw home but West Greene catcher London Whipkey fired to Six, the third baseman, to get Hune.
Like I said, you’re usual 9-2-5 double play.
“As it left my hands, I saw (Header) round third,” said Kiger. “I saw London put the tag on her and then she got the runner at third. It was amazing.”
“As the catcher, you have to see all of the field,” said Whipkey. “Olivia does a great job out there.”
Tri-Valley left six runners on base, West Greene five.
“This team never gives up,” Tri-Valley head coach Marty Shade. “It’s a different type of girls. People said you need luck and we have had it through the season.”
In the second inning, third baseman Lexi Snyder and Rice had back-to-back singles. Right fielder Hope Colahan sent a grounder to short, which Katie Lampe fielded and threw to third to force Snyder.
Pitcher Emma Mauer hit a grounder to Karvan at second. Her throw to home got Rice.
“It hasn’t sunk in,” said Shade. “I feel so happy for our one senior (Huhn). I was talking to one of our coaches and said I hope she gets the winning hit. She came through. It seems someone’s hand grabbed it and it just kept going.”
The Nos. 2 through 4 hitters for West Greene went 0-for-8. ... Colahan made an outstanding catch in the third inning to rob Jersey Wise of a hit. ... Pitcher Kiley Meek allowed two earned runs in 6.1 innings.