By: Ed Weaver | NTL Sports | May 24, 2018 | Photo courtesy Joe Carreon
A three-run home run by junior Hailey Neal capped a 4-run fifth inning rally to help the Wellsboro Varsity Softball team to a 5-1 win over Central Columbia in the first round of District IV Class AAA playoffs.
"I was looking for something high and down the middle," Neal said. "My first at bat I hit a foul ball that I ran all the way to second so I knew I could hit it."
Prior to Wellsboro's fifth inning rally, Central Columbia took an early second inning lead on an RBI single by Mia Cunningham to score Abby Yoder, who led off the inning on a single to left field, to make it 1-0. During that time Bluejays' pitcher Madison Kester allowed just one hit, a bunt single by freshman Kerrah Clymer.
Fast forward to the bottom of the fifth. After a pep talk by head coach Ron Brought, the Lady Hornets' bats started clicking. Senior Kailee Clymer doubled to right field and freshman Jena Boyce singled between third and short to put two runners on. The Lady Hornets tied the game in the next at bat with junior Heidi Zuchowski at the plate. Zuchowski ripped a shot to deep center field, that landed two feet shy of the fence, to score Clymer. The next at bat Neal went yard with a deeper shot over center, to nearly the same location as Zuchowski's hit, to empty the bases and put Wellsboro in front for good, 4-1.
"I just told them we gotta get fired up," Brought said of his talk with the girls before the fifth. "We were having good at bats, we were hitting the ball but we weren't driving the ball like we were capable of. I just tried to 'stoke the coals' a little bit to get the intensity up to where it needed to be and they made me look good."
An inning later Wellsboro added an insurance run. With Kailee Clymer leading off again the senior singled and Boyce walked to again put two runners on. After Zuchowski hit into a fielder's choice to advance the runners, Neal delivered again on a base hit over second to score Clymer again to make it 5-1.
Central Columbia prevented any more bleeding as they made an inning-ending double play. The Bluejays, however, were unable to generate any offense in the top of the seventh to rally as sophomore pitcher Cathryn Brought retired the side.
Brought pitched a complete game for her 7th win of the season, scattering 3 hits and allowing an earned run with a walk and 4 strikeouts.
Neal, Kailee Clymer, and Zuchowski (all 2-for-3) combined for 6 of the Lady Hornets' 8 hits on the evening, Boyce and Kerrah Clymer adding the other 2. Neal finished with 4 RBI's and Zuchowski also drove in a run.
Next up for #7 Wellsboro (12-8) is a rematch with the #2 Loyalsock Lady Lancers, who won a 4-1 game back on May 14, at Loyalsock's Short Park in the District IV Class AAA quarterfinals later this afternoon.
"They're a good team, they're well coached, they play the game well, they really hustle and have good team speed but we're finally getting back to where we're fully healthy with a full roster and I'm feeling good about it.
"I think our girls are going to be up for the game. Tonight was good prep for tomorrow and we're going to go from playing to playing, no down time between to think about it. We'll enjoy this win and come tomorrow with a new mindset... new day, different game and go for it."