Greencastle-Antrim’s defense skids in 8-inning loss to Conrad Weiser

CARLISLE >> Coach Mark DeCarli has said over and over again that defense was Greencastle-Antrim’s Achilles’ heel this softball season.

On Thursday night in a District 3 Class AAA third-place game against Conrad Weiser, the Blue Devils looked like they had their problems figured out. Through six innings, Greencastle played nearly-flawless defense and turned a pair of fine double plays to end threats by the Scouts.

But all of that came crashing down in the final two innings. After leading 1-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Blue Devils committed an error to help set up the tying run, and Conrad Weiser then jumped on a pair of miscues in the eighth inning to capture a 2-1 victory.

“I don’t put blame on anybody,” DeCarli said. “As coaches, we put the blame on ourselves. If this was the middle of the year, I might be fired up because of those errors, but those were hard-chopped balls. It is what it is.”

With the victory, the Scouts (21-4) advance to the PIAA Tournament, which begins Monday. The Blue Devils finish the season 15-9.

After Conrad Weiser knotted the scoreboard at 1-1, the Blue Devils couldn’t get anything going in the visiting half of the eighth. But the same couldn’t be said for the Scouts.

Leadoff batter Emma W. Price reached first via an error, and although she was caught out on a fielder’s choice during Jess Turco’s at-bat, Turco quickly got into scoring position on a passed ball.

Brianna Pichler then reached on an error as well, and when Briana Sassman hit a hard ball to short, the Blue Devils tried for a fielder’s choice at third. But Turco slid back to third underneath the tag to load the bases.

Greencastle ace Liz Ward then induced a popup to put two outs on the board and give the Blue Devils a chance to end it. But Madison Potthoff came up with a bloop hit to leftfield to score Turco for the walk-off victory.

“We really put the ball in play, took advantage of those two errors and didn’t give up,” Conrad Weiser coach Tammy Schucker said. “The bottom of our order (Potthoff bats in the 8-hole) really produced for us today. There were some mental errors that they made that got some runners in scoring position for us.”

Offense also wasn’t the name of the game for Greencastle either. Scout pitcher Val Miller allowed only four hits.

“Their pitcher definitely worked what we’re not good at,” Blue Devil catcher Katie Gelsinger said. “Those high balls, we don’t lay off well, so she definitely worked that. It’s tough to come out here and not hit well when we’ve been hitting better recently, and it’s tough to not make the plays.”

The Blue Devils’ only run came via some impressive baserunning by Morgan Wagaman.

With one out, Wagaman laid down a beautiful bunt single and immediately got to second on a stolen base. Ali Sherman then notched a sacrifice bunt that would’ve moved Wagaman to third, but instead, she high-tailed it all the way home, sliding underneath the tag by the Scouts catcher.

Miller wasn’t the only strong pitcher on Thursday, though. Ward threw a fine game, scattering seven hits and no more than two in any inning. She needed 99 pitches in the complete-game effort.

“The first three games, Ally (Brown) pitched, and Liz took it like a champ,” DeCarli said. “We talked about it, and I knew she wanted this game, so I told her to take it away. She pitched a great game, and she made the right pitch there at the end. It was just a little bloop shot there that was a couple feet short of my leftfielder.”

Gelsinger said, “Liz hasn’t been throwing the past couple of games, so I knew she wanted this. She wanted to show everyone she could do it. She’s a great pitcher, and so is Ally. I love catching them. Liz did so well tonight, and she really kept her head up and just kept pitching.”

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