Winning play will always be remembered
Sometime, years from now, the members of the Parkland softball team will meet up and talk about their state championship win over Cumberland Valley. Memories of some of the details may fade, but as with most championships, there will be one moment that sticks pretty strong in their memories. It will be the play that is remembered as the one that gave the Trojans the championship.
Parkland saw its early 2-0 lead erased during a torrential rain in the fourth inning. The game should have been stopped earlier, but PIAA officials decided to try to play through the rain, which started lightly, but quickly became a deluge.
"Evidently, it wasn't the home plate umpire's decision. It had to come from upstairs," said coach Barry Search. "It got to a point where somebody could have gotten hurt. Finally they came to their senses."
The good news is that Parkland survived thanks to a key strikeout by Aubree Frtizinger to end the rally once play resumed. Parkland retook the lead in the bottom of the fourth, only to see Cumberland Valley come back to tie the game in the fifth.
In the bottom of the sixth, much like the earlier rain, things started slowly for Parkland.
Chelsea Morgan lined out to second base, bringing Sam Pickar to the plate. Pickar had dropped sacrifice bunts - one of which led to a run - in her two earlier plate appearances, but this time she finally got to swing away. The result was a double to right-center field. Sydney Stibitz lined a shot to right, but Taylor Krow made a nice running catch, leaving Pickar at second with two outs.
That's when it happened.
Kyliegh Staudt lined a ball up the middle that bounced off pitcher Jen Hanshaw's leg and ricocheted sharply between the shortstop and third baseman onto the outfield grass. Pickar took off from second when she saw the ball go free and saw Search waving her toward the plate. When the throw came in, the play was relatively close, but Pickar was under the tag for the go-ahead run.
"I had no doubt I would make it once I saw where the ball headed," said Pickar. "I was going on contact and it was a great feeling to score the run. I won't ever forget that or this entire season."
For Staudt, her focus was on making sure she reached base.
"I saw the ball bounce - I thought it went off her glove - and all I focused on after that was making it to first," said Staudt. "Sam did a great job to score on that play."
Cumberland Valley had one last shot in the top of the seventh, but Aubree Fritzinger got all three hitters to ground to third and Taylor Knappenberger easily made all three plays, including the final out, which appeared to be heading toward foul territory, only to be scooped up by Knappenberger, who completed the throw to first to end the game.
The PIAA Championship is the fifth in the school's history and the first for coach Barry Search, who all season long refused to take any credit for his team's success.
"It's all about the kids. It's for them," said Search. "It's what they are going to remember the rest of their lives. We have kids coming back from years and years ago, '95, '98, and they say the same thing; it's what they remember. It's just a great feeling."