Emotional high

Trojans mark first district softball crown

Sentinel photo by JACLYN YINGLING
Mount Union pitcher Sarah Gearhart, left, and catcher Diana Roher embrace after the Trojans defeated West Branch Wednesday for the school’s first district championship in softball.

LORETTO — It was history in the making for a team that was going to have to reach 20 wins before losing for just the second time this season to make it happen.

Mount Union did just that, defeating West Branch 9-2 in the District 6 Class 2A softball championship game Wednesday afternoon at Saint Francis University.

The Trojans, with their first district championship, qualified for the PIAA tournament and will face District 7 runner-up Laurel Monday at a site in District 6.

Things were in favor of the Warriors early, but pitcher Sarah Gearhart and the Trojans calmed down and stopped matters from getting worse, sandwiching five scoreless innings between West Branch’s scoring frames.

During that stretch, the Trojans struck for nine unanswered runs — highlighted by a seven-run sixth inning — to get the needed separation.

An error cost the Warriors in the fourth.

With Karrigan Woodward reaching on a bunt, the West Branch baseman attempted to throw out Taylor Fortney at third. Instead, the throw went wayward and allowed both Fortney and Woodward to score.

Putting the ball in play and forcing the Warriors to make the plays was the offensive theme for Mount Union.

“We really do try to run the bases hard and we were able to have them throw the ball hard to place in order to make the play,” Mount Union coach Matt Fiscus said. “Luckily for us, it came out our way. The ball skipped away a couple of times, but what I think we have to do sometimes is make the other team make the plays. Especially when we are down like we were early.”

The defensive struggles continued to strike the Warriors as they seemingly couldn’t find a way to stop the scoring in the home half of the sixth.

After a pair of singles by Woodward and Madison Harris, Kadyn Crisswell struck what may have been the hardest-hit ball for the Trojans all game. The ball was roped on a liner to left, but right to the left fielder. She couldn’t hold on to it as it fell out of her glove and plated both Woodward and Harris Crisswell.

Woodward finished 2-for-3 and was the lone player for either team to score twice.

The Trojans didn’t have a batter record an RBI until Morgan Brumbaugh singled for her third hit of the game to score Crisswell one pitch later.

Brumbaugh was another of three Trojans to have a multiple hit performance, going a perfect 3-for-3.

“Brumbaugh, the freshman, really came to play today,” Fiscus said. “She set the table for us and helped get us some runs.”

Another two runs crossed the plate when McKenzie Boozel, pinch-hitting for Destinie Myers, doubled to left. It scored Brumbaugh and McKenna Shields — who singled after the Warriors’ shortstop and third baseman collided going after a fly ball.

Shields finished 2-for-3 at the plate.

The Warriors couldn’t find a way to stop the bleeding, committing another pair of throwing errors by infielders, allowing the re-entered Meyers to score and Diana Roher to make her way to third.

She scored three pitches later when Sarah Gearhart helped her own cause with a sacrifice fly to left.

That type of offensive play came slightly unexpected after Warriors’ pitcher Lizzy Scott was having her way in the circle.

“I thought we looked really good today in warmup and that they looked a little nervous,” Fiscus said. “I was planning on taking it to them right off the bat, but obviously, that didn’t happen. But we stood in there and felt good seeing her the second or third time through. She’s a really good pitcher and hats off to them because they’re a very good team.”

Scott accounted for all seven strikeouts in the contest, getting five of them her first time through the Trojans’ lineup.

The Trojans sent 10 hitters to the plate in the first three innings. Nine of them saw two-strike counts, including seven to start the game.

Gearhart had three batters in two-strike counts, but none of that mattered with her defense playing flawlessly behind her.

“I knew they were all good hitters coming in since this is the third time we’ve faced them this season,” Gearhart said. “They’re great hitters all-around and I have a lot respect for all them, but the defense behind me was phenomenal and my catcher’s (Roher) great.

“As a pitcher, especially keeping my composure is one thing, but knowing my teammates behind me have trust in me and I have trust in them, that’s how we make it all work.”

Gearhart accounted for the lone walk in the game, and it came back to hurt.

With two outs, Kayleigh MacTavish worked the free pass and got into scoring position when the next pitch went right to the backstop.

Skylar Ceprish singled up the middle to help the Warriors strike first.

Gearhart settled down, allowing just three more hits after that — two of them in the seventh as the Warriors refused to go down without a fight.

Ceprish was again the center of that, hitting the ball right on the screws for a line drive home run to left that scared those sitting in the area.

The last hit for the Warriors came two pitches later when Julia Herring doubled.

Gearhart was emotional after the game and is happy all the hard work amounted to the team’s first district title.

“First time in school history,” she said with tears of joy rolling down her face. “It’s a huge honor to know that I to grew up playing with these girls. This is what we’ve worked for since we started playing together. It’s amazing, it’s an honor and it’s still unbelievable. It’s all so awesome.”

Mount Union 9, West Branch 2

West Branch 100 000 1 — 2-4-5

Mount Union 000 207 x — 9-10-0

WP: Sarah Gearhart. LP: Lizzy Scott. SO: Scott 7 (WB). BB: Gearhart (MU). HR: Skylar Ceprish (WB). 2B: Julia Herring (WB); McKenzie Boozel (MU). MH: Ceprish 3-for-3 (WB); Karrigan Woodward 2-for-3, Morgan Brumbaugh 3-for-3 (MU). RBI: Ceprish 2 (WB); Gearhart, Kadyn Crisswell, Boozel 2 (MU).