FAYETTEVILLE — As the innings crept by and unfortunate things kept happening to them, the Chambersburg softball team did not get frustrated.
Instead, the players kept searching for the “happy place” in their mind.
They found that place in the nick of time, rallying for three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday evening at Norlo Park to pull out a 4-3 victory over Manheim Township in a District 3 Class 6A quarterfinal game.
“We work on a lot of mental exercises, because I think it really helps them,” Trojan coach Chris Skultety said. “The girls stayed very calm, and things finally started to go our way.”
Chambersburg (16-5) will play in the semifinals on Tuesday at a site TBA, against the winner of the Central Dauphin vs. Cumberland Valley game, which was postponed until Friday at 4:15.
For a long time, it appeared the Trojans were not going to get any breaks, especially with the Blue Streaks (12-8) playing good defense.
Until that fateful seventh inning, they were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They had lined into two double plays. They had hit at least three other balls hard, but right at a fielder.
Chambersburg also had two controversial umpire decisions go against it. One was on the second double play. The other came in the fifth, after Taylor Myers led off with a single. Kirsten Johnson appeared to bunt for a base hit for the second time in the game, but the home plate umpire ruled that after she dropped her bat, it rolled against the ball, which is interference.
Skultety said, “It was feeling like one of those games when nothing you do is going to work. They made some good plays against us, and we kept hitting it right at them.”
But the breaks changed quickly in the seventh, when Chambersburg came to bat trailing 3-1 against pitcher Casey Martin, who had allowed six hits and four walks, but only one run so far.
No. 9 hitter Kara Neidigh led off with a line-drive single to left and Brynn Schoenberger ran for her. Myers then looped a ball into left field that fell just out of the reach of shortstop Maddie Rinier and leftfielder Elise Mitchell for a base hit.
Johnson was up next and squared up to bunt.
“I went to bunt, but pulled the bat back,” Johnson said.
The high pitch hit catcher Emily Smyth in the facemask and caromed to the backstop while Smyth was stunned for several seconds. That allowed Schoenberger to fly home from second base and Myers to speed to third.
Johnson, a senior, admitted she had thought about that fact that this could be her last at-bat.
“While I was on deck, yeah, I did,” she said. “But once I got in the batter’s box I went into a zone and just wanted to help the team.”
She did, ripping a line drive into right field to score Myers with the tying run.
Alyssa Brechbill bunted Johnson to second base, then Manheim Township coach Kirk Luther elected to intentionally walk Alyssa Wenger. When the count went to 2-2 on Haiden Brookens, a wild pitch moved the runners up, so they elected to put her on base intentionally, too.
Martin then went to a 3-0 count on Haley Privett, before battling back to get her on a foul pop to Smyth for the second out.
That left it up to Brooklyn Miller, who had hit a deep fly to center, a line drive caught by Rinier and a hard grounder snagged by Destiny Brice.
Miller said, “They had made good plays the first three times. But in that situation, when you go up there, you can’t think about that. Coach wants us in our happy place in our heads, so you’re calm when you play the game.”
Miller put the whole team in a happy place by stroking a solid single to centerfield, scoring Johnson with the game-winner.
“We did get some bad breaks, but we did well to come back,” Miller said. “We can only worry about the things we can control.”
Johnson said, “We were confident. We had a lot of good hits (before the seventh).”
Mackenzie Stake earned the win, allowing six hits and three walks, with three strikeouts.
The Blue Streaks went ahead 1-0 in the second when Smyth belted a shot over the fence in left field, then 2-0 in the fourth on two hits, a walk and a wild pitch.
Chambersburg got back to within 2-1 on Brechbill’s triple to right-center in the fifth, although it would have been tied if Johnson hadn’t been called for interference the batter before that.
Manheim Township increased its lead to 3-1 in the top of the seventh on a clutch two-out double by Delaney Smith.
“It seemed like we had everything going against us,” Skultety said, “but we found a way to win and we’ll take it.”
NOTES: Tuesday’s semifinal will be played at a neutral site that will be announced over the weekend … Tuesday’s losing team will play for third place next Thursday — the top three teams qualify for states in 6A.
Chambersburg 4, Manheim Township 3
Maddie Rinier, ss, 1-0-0-0; Brionna Rinier, 2b, 2-0-0-0; Destiny Brice, 2b, 2-0-0-0; Delaney Smith, 1b, 4-0-2-1; Emily Smyth, c, 4-1-1-1; Casey Martin, p, 3-0-1-0; Alyssa Johnson, cr, 0-1-0-0; Juliana Lueders, 3b, 2-0-1-0; Kelly Carrasco, dp, 3-0-0-0; Emily Kmiec, rf, 0-0-0-0; Elise Mitchell, lf, 2-0-0-0; Rylee Tineri, cf, 3-1-1-0. Totals 26-3-6-2.
Taylor Myers, cf, 3-2-2-0; Kirsten Johnson, 2b, 4-1-2-1; Alyssa Brechbill, ss, 3-0-2-1; Alyssa Wenger, rf, 3-0-0-0; Haiden Brookens, 3b, 3-0-0-0; Haley Privett, c, 2-0-1-0; Raelyn Johnson, cr, 0-0-0-0; Brooklyn Miller, dp, 4-0-1-1; Mackenzie Stake, p, 0-0-0-0; Erin Pattillo, cr, 0-0-0-0; Sara Washabaugh, 1b, 3-0-0-0; Carrie Loy, cr, 0-0-0-0; Kara Neidigh, lf, 2-0-1-0; Brynn Schoenberger, pr, 0-1-0-0. Totals 27-4-9-3.
Manheim Twp. 010 010 1 — 3-6-2
Chambersburg 000 010 3 — 4-9-1
DP — MT 2; Chbg 1. LOB — MT 7; Chbg 7. 2B — Smith; Privett. 3B — Brechbill. HR — Smyth. SAC — M.Rinier; Brechbill.
Manheim Twp. pitching: Martin (L) 6.2 ip, 9 h, 4 r, 4 er, 6 bb, 3 k, 1 wp.
Chambersburg pitching: Stake (W,11-5) 7 ip 6 h, 3 r, 3 er, 3 bb, 3 k, 1 HBP, 1 wp