FRANCONIA >> Aubrey Gahman could not ignore the tension unfolding in the top of the seventh inning.
Dock Mennonite’s 7-4 lead had been cut down to one when a double by Faith Christian’s Autumn Landis drove in a pair of runs. Landis advanced to third base on the play, putting the Lions 60 feet away from tying the District 1-1A final.
But Gahman and the Pioneers softball team did not fold, the sophomore right-hander getting the following batter to fly out to left field then struck out the next on three straight pitches to secure Dock’s 7-6 victory at Souderton for its first district title since 2017.
“I was really scared, especially when that girl hit the ball and then it was the tying run at third,” Gahman said. But Lianna (Vargas) made a great catch in left field and then we locked in and got the win.”
Second-seeded Faith, which won the last two District 1-1A titles, went out to a 3-0 lead before No. 1 Dock broke through with five runs as it batted around in the bottom of the third.
The Lions pulled to within 5-4 in the top of the sixth on an Abby Filer bases-loaded RBI groundout but in the bottom of the frame, Trinity Landis pushed the Pioneers’ advantage to 7-4 by knocking a two-RBI infield single back at the pitching circle.
“I was hoping she wouldn’t catch it and she didn’t,” said Trinity Landis, Dock’s senior second baseman. “So I saw the other runners and I was like that’s great.”
The runs ended up being much-needed insurance as Faith mounted a rally in the seventh.
Olivia Michalski drew a one-out walk with Elena Ault dropping a single into center to put two on for Landis, who doubled to left to plate both runners and reached third. However, a fly out to left could not bring in Landis with a strikeout ending the Lions’ three-peat bid.
“I was so proud of how they came out in the top of the seventh and didn’t fold over,” Faith Christian coach Maddie Mulhall said. “They didn’t just accept that this game was done. They fought until the end, had ‘em sweating and I could not be more proud of that.”
Trinity Landis finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs for the Pioneers (15-7), who extended their winning streak to 10 games with their third victory over Faith this season.
“It means a lot to me especially since it’s my last season in sports ever as a senior,” Trinity Landis said. “And I know I’m graduating soon so it’s just kind of nice to have this to look forward to going in and winning a district title cause I didn’t win it for field hockey so it’s great to have this.”
Dock, which earned its last district title in Class 3A, opens the PIAA tournament against the District 11 champ Monday, June 5.
“I’ve been around long enough to have more than a few tastes but also a lot of times we’d either, I would guess in the 18 years that I’ve been head coach, we probably lost this game a lot of times,” Dock coach Wayne Benner said. “I always feel this is a dividing line between a good year and a really good year. Just a chance to play in states.
“Good pitching always helps but we have a few amount of nice players here. Pretty proud of ‘em. It took ‘em a while but they jelled late in the season, I think we’ve won quite a few games in a row now.”
Gahman registered 10 strikeouts in her complete-game win. She allowed six runs – five earned – on nine hits and walked three.
“I knew they were going to come ready to hit,” Gahman said. “This was the third they were facing me so I knew I had to remember a little bit of what pitches I gave to some of the batters and threw them the one that I didn’t throw to them.”
Faith starting pitcher Kamryn Pepkowski took the loss despite striking out 12 in a complete-game effort. She gave up seven runs – four earned – on six hits and walked six.
Pepkowski also went 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI triple and scored twice. Ault was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored while Autumn Landis finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
“I think it’s hard to play a team three times,” Mulhall said. We have to make adjustments just like they do. We did, I feel there was a lot more confidence at the plate. Kam pitched her butt off as she has been all season long. She is a dog in that circle, there’s no one else we’d rather have there and I’m so proud of her for how she did fight there even with some hiccups along the way but she battled and that’s all we can ask for.”
The Lions took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as Pepkowski hit a one-out double to left then scored two batters later on Ault’s RBI double to left.
Faith made it 3-0 with two runs in the third. Pepkowski’s triple to left brought in Lexi Reed, who led off the inning with a single. After a Michalski walk, Pepkowski came home on Ault’s RBI sacrifice fly.
Dock, however, went ahead with a five-spot in its half of the third. Leah Al-Laty drew a leadoff walk with her courtesy runner Ceara Barnes going to third on a one-out single by Addison Landis, who advanced to second on the play. An error on Erin Miles’ grounder allowed both Barnes and Addison Landis to score.
Miles went to third on a Gahman base hit. Gahman stole second then came right behind Miles when Trinity Landis connected on a two-RBI single, putting the Pioneers up 4-3.
“I knew I had a big role to fill and I was like it’s not over here so I did everything I could to hit the ball,” Trinity Landis said. “And kept fouling it off and then I got the hit.”
Lydia Ehst increased Dock’s edge to 5-3 with an RBI single the next at-bat but was thrown out trying to reach second. The Pioneers put two on after back-to-back walks by Adelyn Clemmer and Vargas but Pepkowski finally ended the inning with a strikeout.
Faith cut the margin to 5-4 in the sixth. Autumn Landis reached on an error, Jocey Heverly singled and Sammy Snyder walked to load the bases with no outs. Filer’s groundout brought in Autumn Landis but Gahman kept the Pioneers in the lead with consecutive strikeouts.
In the bottom of the sixth, Miles reached a two-out error then stole second and third – the latter as Gahman walked and took second on the play. Trinity Landis followed with a hit back to the pitching circle, the ball ending up on the right side of the infield for a single as Miles and Gahman both scored for a 7-4 lead.
District 1-1A Final
(1) Dock Mennonite 7, (2) Faith Christian 6
Faith Christian 102 001 2 – 6 9 3
Dock Mennonite 005 002 x – 7 6 1
WP: Aubrey Gahman 7 IP 9 H 6 R 5 ER 3 BB 10 SO.
LP: Kamryn Pepkowski 6 IP 6 H 7 R 4 ER 6 BB 2 12 SO.
2B: FCA-Pepkowski, Elena Ault, Autumn Landis, Sammy Snyder; 3B: FCA-Pepkowski.
Faith Christian: Ault 2-3, 2 RBI, R; Landis 2-4, 2 RBI, R; Pepkowski 2-4, RBI, 2 R.
Dock Mennonite: Gahman 2 R; Trinity Landis 3-4, 4 RBI, R; Erin Miles 2 RBI, 2 R.
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