SLIPPERY ROCK — One win.
That is all that stands between DuBois Central Catholic and a PIAA Class A title after a 3-2 victory over perennial power West Greene in the semifinals Tuesday at Slippery Rock University.
The Lady Pioneers, the champions out of the WPIAL, had been a thorn in the Lady Cardinals’ side in recent years.
West Greene put an end to the District 9 champions’ season in 2016 and 2017 in the semifinal round as it had made three consecutive state title appearances and had won back-to-back Class A titles.
The Lady Cardinals put an end to the run Tuesday as the one-run victory sent them to their first PIAA championship game in program history as well as being the first title appearance for any girls team in school history.
“It feels really good and the kids deserve this. They work about 10 months out of the year,” DCC head coach George Heigel said. “Our goal all year was a state championship and we still have one game to go, but we knew it would come down to this game for the West.”
“It’s good for our program, good for our school and is good for our girls and our younger girls coming up. The expectation for DuBois Central softball is you’re going to play into the middle of June.”
Tuesday’s semifinal contest saw both teams get off to a hot start at the plate, as each side scored a pair of runs in their respective halves of the first inning, before things calmed down and just one run was scored over the final six innings of play.
That one run came in the top of the third on just one swing, as junior Shayleigh Gulvas led off with a solo home run to left-center which proved to be the game-winning hit.
The Lady Cardinals took the early lead in the first as the away side, as a pair of key two-out singles gave them a 2-0 lead.
Gulvas led the inning off with a single to center field before being forced out at second when Avery Sickeri reached on a 5-4 fielder’s choice.
After a fly out for the second out of the inning, Sickeri stole second to move into scoring position.
Next up was cleanup hitter Mia Meholick, who hit a pop up to the right side of the infield that off the bat seemed destined for the third out of the inning.
Instead, a bit of confusion defensively from the Lady Pioneers allowed the ball to drop in front of the second baseman as Meholick reached first before a throw could be made.
Sickeri moved up to third on the infield single. Meholick then stole second giving Carley Semancik a chance to come up with an RBI hit in the early going.
And, Semancik delivered as she ripped a line drive off the shortstop’s glove and into left field to bring home both runners and give the Lady Cardinals the two-run lead after half an inning.
“My career is coming to an end, and it just means a lot to be able to contribute to my team and help us get to Friday, what we’ve been working for,” Semancik said.
West Greene responded right away in the bottom of the inning as it took advantage of defensive mistakes by DCC to score a pair of unearned runs.
McKenna Lampe led off with a bloop single into left-center before Madison Lampe beat out a throw from short for an infield single to put two on with nobody out.
Kaitlyn Rizor followed by hitting a ground ball to short, as Gulvas bobbled the grounder then attempted to get the force out at third. Her throw was low and got past third baseman Sickeri, allowing McKenna Lampe to come in to score.
Madison Lampe and Rizor moved up a base to third and second respectively on the error.
The Lady Cardinals then intentionally walked cleanup hitter Jade Renner to load the bases with still no outs in the inning.
DuBois Central starter Ashley Wruble struck out the following batter for the first out of the frame.
Jersey Wise then drove a pitch into left field as Madison Hoyt tracked the ball down and stretched out to make a catch just short of the warning track as Madison Lampe tagged and scored from third on the play.
Rizor also tagged and moved up to third as she looked to come in to score the go-ahead run when Hoyt’s throw into the infield was low and got by Gulvas at short.
Sickeri tracked down the loose ball from third and fired to Meholick at the plate who got down the tag in time for an inning-ending 7-5-2 double play as the game headed into the second tied at two.
After DCC went down in order in the top of the second, the Lady Pioneers looked to take their first lead of the game in the bottom half.
Mackenzie Carpenter led off by singling to the left side, as Wruble struck out the next batter looking for the inning’s first out.
Kylie Simms then drove another pitch into left for a single to put runners at first and second with one away as she was replaced by courtesy runner Anna Durbin at first.
McKenna Lampe loaded the bases on a bunt single to third as Madison Lampe came up with a chance to give West Green the lead.
She drove a hard ground ball to short as Gulvas came up and fired to Meholick at home to get the force out for the second out of the inning.
Wruble then forced Rizor to ground out back to the circle as she threw to Alyssa Bittner at first to get out of the jam and keep the game tied.
The Lady Cardinals continued that momentum into the next half inning, as Gulvas led off the third by driving a solo shot well over the left-center field fence to put DCC back in front 3-2.
“It was crazy, I knew it was gonna go out by the time I was near first base and I felt good and confident that we were going to come through with the win,” Gulvas said.
Wruble later singled in the inning but was stranded at third as DCC held a one-run lead after two and a half innings of play.
In the bottom half Wruble, one of the Lady Cardinals’ four seniors, retired the West Greene side in order to send the game into the fourth.
Maia Cogley looked to get things going for DCC in the fourth as she singled to left with one away before moving into scoring position by stealing second.
Jordy Kosko then grounded out to short, as Cogley looked to move up on the throw to first, but was thrown out at third by Lady Pioneers first baseman Brianna Goodwin to end the inning on the 6-3-5 double play.
West Greene looked to tie the game or take the lead in the next half inning as Carpenter walked and Kiley Meek singled before both runners moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Simms.
McKenna Lampe followed by hitting a sinking line drive to center field, but Kosko got a good read on the ball and charged in to make a sliding catch and was shallow enough to prevent the runners from tagging.
After an intentional walk to load the bases, DCC turned to freshman pitcher Morgan Tyler, who forced Rizor to ground out to Wruble, who had moved over to second base, to end the inning.
Wruble and Tyler combined to hold Rizor to 0-for-4 on the day at the plate as she grounded out to end the second, fourth and sixth innings to leave a combined eight runners on base.
Rizor was a key part of West Greene’s win over DCC two years ago, as she went 4-for-4 with four RBIs and a run scored in a 9-5 Lady Pioneers’ win and went a combined 6-for-7 in the previous two wins over the Lady Cardinals.
In total, West Greene left 12 runners on base in the loss while the Lady Cardinals stranded just four on base.
Central Catholic looked to add an insurance run in the top of the sixth when Meholick reached on a two-base error when a fly ball to left field was misplayed.
Then with one out, Bittner singled to left-center as Meholick looked to come around to score. But, she was thrown out at home by center fielder McKenna Lampe.
“A lot of things have to go right to get thrown out at home,” Heigel said. “You take risks and sometimes they don’t work out but it didn’t hurt as in the end.”
In the fifth Meek and Simms led off with a single and walk respectively before Tyler responded by retiring the 1-2-3 batters in order to send the game into the seventh.
She finished with three hits allowed and two walks over 3 1/3 innings to get the win, while Wruble went 3 2/3 innings allowing two unearned runs on six hits and three walks while striking out three.
Tyler sat down the first two batters in the bottom of the seventh with a little help from her defense. Renner led off by hitting a line drive down the left-field line that could have gone for extra bases.
However, Cogley, who moved out to left field during the fourth inning, ranged over and stretched out to make the catch along the line for the first out.
Wise then drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch to keep the game alive before Carpenter singled to right to put runners on the corners.
Tyler then got Meek to ground out to short as Gulvas threw across to Bittner for the final out to send DCC to the state title game.
“My brain was going crazy. I knew we had it when I caught it just because I trust myself, and it was nuts hearing the crowd,” Gulvas said.
Heigel noted that he was glad to see Gulvas’ first thought was to throw across to first because he felt if she had tried to get the out at second all three runners would have been safe.
Semancik added, “Absolutely everything was on the line there and I had faith in my team that we could do this. This is what we’ve been working for for years now and we did it.”
Both Semancik and Gulvas talked about what it meant for them to be a part of school history, making it to the program’s first PIAA title game.
“It’s really incredible and I’m so thankful that in my last year I can end it with this team,” Semancik said.
“It’s awesome just to know that we’ll always be remembered as the team that made it to the state championship, that will stick with me forever,” added Gulvas.
DuBois Central Catholic will now battle District 11 champion Williams Valley in the Class A title game Friday at Penn State’s Beard Field at 11 a.m.
Williams Valley, which will be playing in its fourth straight title game, beat Millersburg, 15-1, in five innings Tuesday.