Hilltoppers hold off Juniata, advance

MIFFLINTOWN The road through the postseason was cut short for the Juniata softball team Thursday after running into a very opportunistic Westmont-Hilltop team, falling 8-7.

However, what might be remembered in this game by the Indians’ fans and the team itself is how the team rallied for four runs in the final two at-bats to almost tie the game and send it into extra innings.

Alyssa Miller launched a solo home run in the top of the seventh, which put the Hilltoppers up 8-5 for the time being and ended up the difference.

“They fought hard until the very end,” Juniata manager Brian Sheaffer said. “They never quit even when they had some rough innings in between. We hit the ball tonight. I feel really bad for our girls. They are a great group of kids.”

Leading the way offensively for the Hilltoppers were Miller (3-for-4), including the decisive homer, and Lauren Crisswell, who went 2-for-3.

Juniata got 2-for-4 efforts from Kristen Pray and Maddie Zendt, a 2-for-3 day from Summer Swab and a team-high three hits from Victoria Cisney.

The Indians started off on the right foot, posting two runs in the bottom of the first inning.

Leadoff hitter, Pray roped a shot into the outfield and blazed her way around the bases finishing with an inside-the-park home run, for the 1-0 lead.

Cisney followed with a single. Cisney was replaced by courtesy runner Emilee Wagner. Wagner moved to second on a Micheh Horning sacrifice bunt, then scored on two Westmont-Hilltop wild pitches.

Westmont cut the lead in half, plating its first run in the top of the second and kept Juniata from adding on in the bottom half of the inning.

Juniata returned the favor in the top half of the third.

Pray led off the third with her second hit of the game; a liner up the middle. Cisney followed with a hit, placing runners on the corners.

After a stolen base by Cisney, Summer Swab picked up an RBI single that allowed Pray to score.

The wheels start to fall off for the Indians in the fourth and fifth inning as the Hilltoppers combined to score seven runs in the two innings, giving them an 7-3 lead.

After going scoreless in the fourth and fifth, Juniata started its climb back, posting two runs each of the following two innings.

Megan Shoop led off the sixth inning by hustling out an infield single. Teammate Maddie Zendt followed with a single up the middle, putting runners on first and second. Shoop scored when a simple fly was caught and thrown to first for a double play. However, the ball sailed wide, allowing Shoop to score and Zendt to go from first to third.

Zendt made it 7-5 when she scored on a wild pitch by Westmont pitcher Kaylee Grassmyer, but in the top of the seventh is when when Miller struck for the deciding home run, a towering shot, to extend the lead to 8-5.

Seeing that the season was hanging in the balance, the Indians made one last run.

With one out, Horning reached base on an error by the left fielder. Swab once again laid down a picture perfect bunt, setting the stage for Zendt.

Facing a two out situation, Zendt unloaded a clutch two-run single, cutting the Westmont lead to 8-7.

However, it was too little too late as Westmont was able to stop the Indians’ drive just a run short, ending Juniata’s season in District 6 action.