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Valiant Effort

Juniata’s Elizabeth Gaisior punches out 16 batters in Indians’ 1-0 defeat

Sentinel photo by MIKE GOSS
In a cloud of dust, Juniata catcher Olivia Laub slides safely into second base under the tag of Millersburg’s shortstop Hannah Dyer after Laub hit a double.

MIFFLINTOWN–Only three things in life are certain: death, taxes and Elizabeth Gaisior mowing down opposing batters. The left-handed fireballer recorded 16 punchouts in another dazzling performance, however, the Juniata bats fell cold and Millersburg was able to come away with an intense 1-0 win.

This week alone, the Juniata softball team has played three, very different ball games. On Monday, Juniata steamrolled Greenwood, winning 13-0 in five innings. The following day, Juniata held a 3-0 lead in the final inning but Upper Dauphin rallied to walk it off and on Thursday, Gaisior and Millersburg’s Kierstyn Smith went head-to-head in a battle of elite pitchers at the top of their game.

“It was a fun game to play,” Juniata coach Erin Cressman said. “We’ve been playing really well lately. They’ve been stepping it up a notch.”

From the first pitch of the game, Gaisior was electric. Her fastball was lights out and she racked up seven strikeouts her first pass through the lineup.

After the first four innings, Juniata had not allowed a baserunner and Gaisior struck out 10 of the 12 batters that stepped up to the plate. With each and every strikeout, the Juniata fielders’ energy increased in support of their dominant starting pitcher.

“Our girls brought it. They’re soaking in every moment we get to be here and really enjoying it,” Cressman said.

That energy, however, did not translate into offense. Millersburg’s Smith was up to the task of matching the zeroes that Gaisior was putting on the scoreboard. While her strikeout count was half of Gaisior’s, Smith finished the game pitching a complete game, four-hit shutout.

In the second inning, Juniata’s catcher Olivia Laub rifled a double to deep left-center field, doing her best to try and get Juniata on the board. Smith worked around the baserunner by getting two strikeouts and a hard, line-drive out off the bat of Mackenzie Lyter.

The game remained scoreless until the top of the fifth, when Millersburg’s Hannah Dyer got the rally started with a single to center. She advanced to second on the play as Juniata had trouble getting the ball in from the outfield. Dyer stole third and was driven in on a sacrifice fly to right. Navi Jackson made an incredible leaping catch to prevent an extra base hit, but fell to the ground in the process, allowing Dyer to tag up and score the game’s lone run.

Juniata had one final chance to get on the board in the bottom of the seventh as Laub singled and Shalelyn Armstrong reached on a throwing error by Millersburg’s second baseman. With runners on first and second and one out, Lyter stepped into the box looking to play hero for Juniata. She hit the ball hard, but right at Millersburg’s second baseman who caught it and doubled off Laub, who strayed a little too far off of second base, to end the game.

“After our beginning, they could have easily just given up, but they continue to get better and push themselves, and it shows,” Cressman said about her team improving over the course of the season. “It’s been really fun to watch. (Coaches) can say whatever we want, but they have to do (the work), and they have.”

Juniata is a very young team. Their two starting pitchers, Gaisior and Alexea Frontz, are freshmen and have pitched exceptionally well over the course of their first season. Gaisior’s emergence as a top pitcher in the Tri-Valley League, as well as the other young talent on the roster, has given Juniata a bright future in the upcoming years.

“Every time I look at the book I’m like, ‘Man, she is really good,'” Cressman said about Gaisior’s rookie season. “She’s a big competitor. She loves to play and we’re really happy she’s around.”

Juniata (3-11 overall, 3-10 league) hosts Penns Valley today.

Millersburg 1, Juniata 0

WP: Kierstyn Smith. LP: Elizabeth Gaisior. SO: Smith 8 (M); Gaisior 16 (J). BB: Gaisior 2 (J). 2B: Fallon McFadden (M); Olivia Laub (J). MH: Laub 2-3 (J). RBI: Jana Strait (M).

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