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Old Forge back in D2 title game

Pittston Area, Wyoming Area eliminated in Class 3A

Pictured above Old Forge pitcher Nicole Marianelli fires a strike to the plate against MMI Prep on Tuesday in District 2 Class 1A playoff action. Below, the Blue Devils Sarah Fish rips one of her three hits against the Lady Preppers in the Old Forge victory.

photos by rick notari

Wyoming Area’s Kaitlyn Kross singles in the Lady Warriors District 2 playoff loss to Dallas.

Photo by Charlotte Bartizek

Above, Wyoming Area’s Serra Degnan is called out at home after being tagged by Dallas catcher Desiree Roberts. Below left, Alex Holtz watches a pitch go by in the Lady Warriors loss to Dallas. Below right, WA catcher Melissa Eipper watches a base runner after catching a pitch.

photos by Charlotte Bartizek

After a season filled with inconsistency, the Old Forge softball team is finally hitting its stride. And it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

The three-time defending District 2 Class 1A champion Blue Devils manufactured some offense and flashed some leather on defense to beat top-seeded Northwest, 4-1, on Friday afternoon at Northwest Area High School in Shickshinny to advance to the district title game for the sixth straight season. Old Forge will play Blue Ridge on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.

The Blue Devils put runners on in the first two innings against Northwest starter Rachel Linso who had fanned over 150 batters on the season but it was some third-inning magic that put Old Forge on the board.

Freshmen Taylor Nemetz and Lauren Carey started the inning with back-to-back singles to give the Blue Devils first and third with no out. Carey stole second with Andi Alsalahat at the plate and when a third strike on Alsalahat got away from Lady Rangers’ catcher Maranda Koehn, the Old Forge shortstop beat the throw to first to load the bases.

Winning-pitcher Nicole Marianelli followed with a sacrifice fly to score Nemetz, and when the throw trying to get the Old Forge right fielder at the plate skidded into the Northwest dugout, Carey was awarded home for a 2-0 lead. Chelsea Cadwalder made the score 3-0 with a sacrifice fly to center which easily scored Alsalahat who had moved to third on the errant throw.

The Old Forge defense was stellar throughout the contest, starting in the second inning when first baseman Dana Bilski picked an Alsalahat throw out of the dirt for the third out of the inning with runners on first and second. The Blue Devils then showed Marianelli some glove in the third when Cadwalder made a nice catch on a foul pop and Alsalahat snared a liner to strand two more Northwest runners.

In the fourth it was the outfielders’ turn as left fielder Jess Casey and Carey in center both made outstanding plays on back-to-back hard-hit balls to end the inning. Bilski started the fifth by stabbing a liner down the first base line for an out, and second baseman Briah Carling recorded the final two outs of the inning with a runner on second.

Northwest finally got to Marianelli in the bottom of the sixth on a bloop single to right and two infield singles, but Alsalahat dove to stop the second infield single from reaching the outfield and when she got to her feet, threw out the runner at second base who had wandered too far off on the play for the second out of the inning. Marianelli struck out the next hitter to end the inning and turn momentum back to the Blue Devils.

Nemetz led off the seventh with he second bunt single of the game and Carey followed with a double to the left centerfield gap to give Old Forge second and third with no out.

Linso got Alsalahat to ground out to third, but Marianelli delivered another sacrifice fly to plate Nemetz with an insurance run and a 4-1 lead.

Northwest (13-2), the Wyoming Valley Conference Division III champions, looked to rally in the bottom of the seventh but Nemetz turned a single to right into the first out of the inning when she fielded the sharp grounder by Rachel Whitesell and fired to Bilski at first for the out. Marianelli then induced a liner to Carey in center, and after a two-out double got a popup to Carling at second for the final out of the game.

Marianelli scattered eight hits and one walk over seven innings to earn the win for Old Forge (6-10). She also finished 2-for-2 with two RBI at the plate. Carey and Nemetz added two hits each for the Blue Devils.

OF 6, MMI Prep 1

Fifth-seeded Old Forge traveled to Drifton on Wednesday afternoon to begin defense of its District 2 Class 1A crown and came away with a 6-1 victory over third-seeded Freeland MMI Prep at the Drifton ASA Softball Complex.

The Blue Devils jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as Lauren Carey led off with a single to left, stole second, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on an Andi Alsalahat single to center.

Old Forge (5-10) added another run in the second on an RBI single by Taylor Nemetz which scored Briah Carling from third base. Carling, who moved to third on a groundout by Jess Casey, was running for Sarah Fish who had doubled to right with one out.

The Blue Devils went ahead 4-0 in the fourth after Casey doubled home Dana Bilski and Fish who had doubled and single respectively to lead off the inning.

MMI answered with a run in the fourth, but Old Forge added insurance runs in the sixth and seventh on RBI singles by Nemetz and Fish.

Nicole Marianelli picked up the complete-game win for the Blue Devils, allowing just five hits without a walk as she struck out seven.

Fish finished the day with three hits as did Alsalahat for Old Forge. Lindsay Regan added two hits, including a double, for the Blue Devils.

OF 4, Riverside 5

Old Forge relinquished its 12-year stranglehold in the “Battle of the Valley” with a 5-4 loss to arch-rival Riverside in a completion of its suspended game on Sunday afternoon at Derenick Park in Taylor.

The Lady Vikes took advantage of four unearned runs in their first at-bat to take an early lead on the Blue Devils. But Old Forge clawed its way back, beginning in the third innings.

Trailing 5-0, Chelsea Cadwalder doubled home Andi Alsalahat who had walked and moved to second on a passed ball. Michelle Giacometti, running for Cadwalder, moved to third on a ground out by Lindsay Regan, and scored on an error to get the Blue Devils within, 5-2.

Nicole Marianelli made the score 5-3 in the top of the fifth with a leadoff home run, and one out later, Lindsay Regan and Dana Bilski smashed back-to-back doubled to cut the Old Forge deficit to 5-4.

But the Blue Devils would get no closer as they left Alsalahat stranded at first in the top of the sixth after a two-out single.

Alsalahat, Cadwalder and Marianelli all finished with two hits each for Old Forge, and Jess Casey added a double.

Marianelli allowed just one earned run in six innings, retiring the last seven batter of the game without allowing a runner past second base after the second inning.

WA 2, Dallas 4

Wyoming Area had its season come to an end in a hard-fought 4-2 loss to Wyoming Valley Conference Division I-West champion Dallas in the completion of a suspended game on Friday afternoon in the Back Mountain.

Trailing 3-0 when torrential rains hit on Thursday, the Lady Warriors clawed back to within two runs with a pair of runs in the sixth after the Lady Mounts made the score 4-0.

Kayla Kross single and had an RBI for Wyoming Area, and Adrianne Przybyla and Melissa Eipper each singled and scored a run.

WA 7, North Pocono 6

Wyoming Area pulled off the first upset of the District 2 Class 3A softball tournament with a 7-6 win over North Pocono on Tuesday afternoon in Moscow.

The tenth-seeded Lady Warriors withstood a North Pocono rally after taking a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the fourth as the seventh-seeded Lady Trojans took a 5-4 lead after five full innings of play.

But Wyoming Area answered with three runs in the top of the sixth to take a 7-5 lead before holding on for the win.

Lexi Coolbaugh had a huge day at the plate for Wyoming Area (5-10), smacking three hits, including a double, while driving in three runs.

Adrianne Przybyla also went 3-for-3 with an RBI for the Lady Warriors, and Melissa Eipper singled, doubled and drove in two runs.

Winning pitcher Alex Holtz chipped in with two hits, including a double, and also scored two runs. She scattered seven hits and eight walks while striking out five to earn the victory.

PA 0, Berwick 12

Pittston Area had its season come to a close in a 12-0, five-inning loss to Berwick on Tuesday in a District 2 Class 3A first round game in Columbia County.

Ali Slomba had two hits to lead the Lady Patriots.

PA 1, Crestwood 9

Pittston Area dropped its final Wyoming Valley Conference Division I-East game of the season, 9-1, to Crestwood in Mountain Top last week.

Centerfielder Kelly Keener accounted for the Lady Patriots only run with a seventh-inning home run.

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