ALLENTOWN >> Powerful Pine Grove was out to make a statement, with Trish Kopinetz’s two home runs providing the period and exclamation point.
“It’s an amazing feeling, that’s for sure,” Kopinetz said.
The Cardinals remained on a mission, making it back to the state semifinals for the second year in a row with a 17-3 victory over Dock Mennonite Academy on a sunny afternoon on the diamond at Patriots Park.
The Pioneers, a team on the rise in Class 3A with seven starters returning for next season, saw their impressive run come to a close in state quarters.
“I’ve never gotten this far in softball or any other sport and it was fun to do it with this team,” said Dock shortstop Jill Bolton, one of the squad’s two seniors, set to play field hockey at Liberty University next year. “This team is so young and had so many laughs and had a great season. A lot more confidence will be built for next year.”
The win advances Pine Grove to a match-up with either Mid Valley or Brandywine Heights, who would meet later in the evening at Patriots Park.
After a double by starting pitcher Liv Lehman helped the Cardinals to a 2-0 lead in the first, Dock evened things up in the bottom half with a double by Theresa Beck followed up by a two-run homer to center by Bolton.
“I was really happy for her, now that I can say this was her last game,” Dock coach Wayne Benner said of his senior shortstop. “I’m sure she wanted to get a win and keep playing but I’m glad she got something out of it in that way. She’s been a huge piece of the program for four years.”
Pine Grove nudged ahead 3-2 in the second against Pioneer starter McKenzie Gordon and then had back-to-back five-run innings in the third and fourth to break it open. Each inning started with a home run to center by Kopinetz.
“I knew the first one (was gone) and then the second one, I wasn’t sure it was gonna go because I thought I popped it up a little bit,” Kopinetz said. “I was really happy, just getting it there, getting some runs, hyping up my team.”
Pine Grove piled up 13 hits and had eight different players score a run in punching a return-trip ticket to semis.
“We were there last year (in a 4-0 loss to Holy Redeemer in AA) and we really wanted to get back there again because we love the feeling,” Kopinetz said. “We lost last year but we were just one game away. And we wanted to get back.
“We set goals at the beginning of the year and we were on a mission. We took it one at a time, trying to get to each goal, and that’s what we continue to do.”
Solid from top to bottom, Pine Grove also got a pair of doubles and three RBI’s from its No. 8 hitter, Faith Sleva. Sleva scored the final run of the contest in the top of the fifth, off an RBI single by pinch hitter Emily Hindman, making it 17-3.
Caitlin Becher took the mound in the fifth, retiring the Pioneers in order to end it in five.
“It’s definitely a great way (to be going into the next round),” Kopinetz said of her team’s performance.
Dock’s other run came in the fourth, when Bolton (2-for-2) ripped a single up the middle and later raced home on an error.
“I’m proud of how far we came,” Bolton said, “proud of how far we made it.”
Top Photo: Dock Mennonite’s Jules Rotelle covers first base as a Pine Grove player approaches during their PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal on Thursday, June 8, 2017. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)