SLIPPERY ROCK — The chances were there, but the West Greene High School softball team couldn't pounce like it usually does.
The daggers that the Pioneers have used over the course of their four-year run never came, as one after another player disappointingly took a slow, somber walk back to the dugout.
Resting their bats against the backstop fence, angrily hanging their helmets back to their resting spot and putting hands on their heads, which had to be thinking as the noon start time progressed that it was closer and closer to striking midnight of their unthinkable run.
A chance at appearing in a fourth state title, and winning a third straight championship, ended Tuesday afternoon as West Greene failed to come up with the clutch hits it needed, stranded 12 runners on base and fell to DuBois Central Catholic, 3-2, in a PIAA Class A semifinal game at Slippery Rock University.
West Greene (21-5), the defending two-time state champions, left the bases loaded in the second and fourth innings. The Pioneers last-ditch effort in a push for Penn State ended 60 feet short as Dubois Central Catholic shortstop Shay Gulvas bobbled a grounder before throwing it to first for the final out.
"We had plenty of opportunities," said West Greene coach Bill Simms. "We had the bases loaded twice and runners on right there at the end. I don't know, sometimes you just come up a little bit short. It's not the end of the world for us but it's pretty low right now."
The loss also ends a 19-game playoff winning streak for the Pioneers. A dominant senior class finishes 96-12, the final loss to DuBois Central Catholic (17-9) being the 10th loss by one run.
Gulvas was a difference outside of making the final out. A home run to lead off the third inning broke a tied game and gave the Cardinals the 3-2 advantage it clung to over the final five innings.
"It took us three times, but we finally got it right," DuBois Central Catholic coach George Heigel said of losing to the Pioneers in the 2016 and 2017 semifinals.
The difference was the success Cardinals' pitchers Ashley Wruble and Morgan Tyler had against the top of West Greene's lineup. They held the top four in the Pioneers' lineup — McKenna Lampe, Madison Lampe, Kaitlyn Rizor and Jade Renner — to four hits.
"Controlling them was the key," Heigel said. "The Lampe sisters were key. Rizor has killed us in the past. We did well against all three and Renner."
The bottom of West Greene's lineup set the table for the top of it to feast by getting on base but the only runs the Pioneers could push across were in the first inning. A pair of DuBois Central Catholic errors on the same play scored McKenna Lampe. Madison Lampe then tied the game at 2-2 on a sacrifice fly to left field by Jersey Wise.
The Cardinals first took a 2-0 lead in the top half of the first inning with a two-run single by Carley Semancik.
The numerous threats made by the Pioneers couldn't push across the tying run. A pair of groundouts squandered the bases-loaded situations in the second and fourth innings. The bottom two in the Pioneers' order, Kylie Meek and Kylie Simms, both reached safely in the sixth inning but Tyler got the Lampe sisters to pop out and Rizor to hit a weak grounder to second for the final out.
Tyler entered with a 2-0 count on Madison Lampe in the fourth inning. She intentionally walked Lampe and got another Rizor groundout to second to finish the inning and keep the Cardinals in the lead.
"We have had just an amazing career and its been an amazing ride," Rizor said. "I truly don't know if we can comprehend what we've accomplished. We just couldn't get it done when we needed it today."