Old Forge designated player Sarah Fish connects for an RBI single in the Blue Devils win over Greenwood on Monday in the opening round of the PIAA Class 1A playoffs. Below, Blue Devils third baseman Lindsary Regan makes a play to her left before getting an out at first base.photos by rick notari
Old Forge’s Andi Alsalahat rips a two-run home run during the Blue Devils win over Greenwood on Monday in the PIAA playoffs.photos by rick notari
Old Forge’s Dana Bilski takes a cut against Greenwood.
Nicole Marianelli fires a strike to the plate in the Blue Devils win over Greenwood.
The clock struck midnight on Old Forge’s Cinderella run through the post-season Thursday afternoon in Bloomsburg, and unfortunately for the Blue Devils, it came without a happy ending.
Old Forge managed just three hits and committed four errors in a 10-0, five-inning loss to Wyalusing in the PIAA Class 1A Quarterfinals at Jan Hutchinson Field on the campus of Bloomsburg University.
The Blue Devils season ends at 8-11 after winning four playoff games in the past two weeks after winning just four games during its Lackawanna League Division II season.
Wyalusing advances to the Eastern Final where they will take on District 11 champ Minersville.
It wasn’t a game in which Old Forge didn’t have chances though.
Nicole Marianelli drew a two-out walk in the first, and Dana Bilski laced a one-out single to center in the second, but the Blue Devils left both runners stranded. It was a sign of things to come. Old Forge would strand seven runners on base in five innings.
Wyalusing didn’t have that problem.
The District 4 champion Rams scored in three different innings, including three unearned runs in the second to go ahead, 3-0.
“We left a small colony on base today,” said Head Coach Pat Revello. “Then we dug ourselves in a hole. It just wasn’t our day.
“We hit the ball like I thought we would. But we had some errors that cost us, and this is a great program at Wyalusing. (Coach Jack Loomis) has a great team and has talked about this team for years. They are a strong team and have a bunch of weapons, and once we got down three runs, it’s hard to get back against this team. We wanted to win this game 1-0 or 2-1. But when you are down, 3-0 and 6-0, you are just out of the game.”
Even down 3-0, the Blue Devils battled to get back into the game in the top of the third.
After a close play at first on a bunt by Taylor Nemetz resulted in the first out of the inning, leadoff hitter Lauren Carey reached on an error and moved to second when Andi Alsalahat drew a one-out walk. But the threat ended when Wyalusing senior pitcher Bri Jennings – who is bound for Delaware in the fall – struck out Marianelli and Chelsea Cadwalder to end the inning.
The Rams then tacked on three more in the bottom of the inning to go ahead 6-0 as the Northern Tier League champions took advantage of back-to-back doubles and a walk to start the inning before scoring two runs with two outs.
Old Forge tried to rally again in the fourth when Bilski singled for the second time in the game and advanced to second on a passed ball. But Jennings got seniors Sarah Fish and Jess Casey to fly out to right field to end the inning.
The Blue Devils again put runners on in the fifth when Carey singled to right center with one out and Marianelli drew a two-out walk, but again Jennings got a strikeout to end the threat.
Wyalusing then ended the game with four runs in the fifth before Old Forge could record an out for a 10-0 victory.
Despite the lopsided loss, Revello had nothing but words of praise for his team and its six seniors.
“It was very easy for this team at four wins to just pack it in but they didn’t,” said Revello in reference to the Blue Devils regular season. “You have to hand it to our seniors and the leadership they displayed. Every practice they practiced hard. They didn’t practice like a team that had four wins, they practiced like the champs that they are. Our seniors never let this team quit.
“(The seniors) are a great group of kids. They have gone through a lot. They have been to a state final. They are walking out of here with four district (crowns), and you can’t say anyone has won any more. They have more gold than Boccardo’s. This group will always mean a lot to me. I am very proud of them. I will remember them for a long time.”
The way the post-season has gone for the Old Forge softball team, it should have been no surprise that the Blue Devils scored the winning run in its 5-3 victory over Greenwood in the opening round of the PIAA Class 1A Championships on a mistake – its own mistake.
The Blue Devils forced the Wildcats into three mistakes of their own after a base running misstep led to two fifth-inning runs that propelled Old Forge into the Eastern Semis for the third time in four years in a game at Lebanon Valley College on Monday afternoon.
Facing the District 3 champions, the Blue Devils pushed a run across in the top of the second when Lindsay Regan reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single by Sarah Fish to give Old Forge a 1-0 lead.
The Blue Devils then added to its lead in the top of the third when Andi Alsalahat broke out of an 0-for-9 slump with a mammoth two-run home run which cleared the scoreboard in left field at LVC to put Old Forge ahead 3-0. The shot, which traveled some 225-feet, scored Lauren Carey who had reached on an error.
Winning-pitcher Nicole Marianelli – who has pitched brilliantly during the Blue Devils four-game playoff winning streak – retired the first eight batters of the game before Greenwood scored a run in the bottom of the third on an error by the Blue Devils, a bloop single just out of the reach of second baseman Briah Carling, and a double by leadoff hitter AJ Siegel to get within 3-1.
The Wildcats then tied the game in the fourth with two unearned runs after a leadoff walk, coupled with a fielder’s choice, a single, an error and two passed balls tied the game at 3-3.
But Old Forge turned momentum back in its favor thanks to some confusion by both teams.
Taylor Nemetz reached on an error to start the fifth and Carey followed with a sharp single back up the middle bringing Alsalahat to the plate. The Blue Devils leading hitter ripped a shot down the third base line that Selena Shaffer snagged and stepped on third to force Nemetz but her throw to first to try and get the double play was late, setting up Old Forge with first-and-second with one out.
And then the fun started.
Marianelli roped a single to center which should have scored Carey. But the freshman centerfielder stopped at third with Alsalahat chugging behind her. Caught halfway between second and third when Alsalahat realized Carey was still at third, the senior shortstop headed back to second.
Greenwood pitcher Anna Heggenstaller who cut the throw from centerfielder Autumn Pellman ran at Alsalahat before throwing to second base. When the throw was made, Carey sprinted for home. The throw home was late and Old Forge led 4-3.
But the play was not over.
Alsalahat moved to third on the throw home, and Marianelli took off for second base. When Greenwood tried to get Marianelli at second, Alsalahat took off for home, and scored on another late throw to push the Blue Devils ahead, 5-3.
Marianelli then got out of bases-loaded jam in the sixth when Alsalahat simultaneously caught a pop-up while stepping on second base for an inning-ending double play.
Then in the seventh, Marianelli induced a fielder’s choice and a groundout to Alsalahat at short with runners at first-and-second to end the game.
Marianelli did not allow an earned run in seven innings as the senior scattered eight hits and two walks. She also added two hits and a stolen base.