Anyone who bet on the James Buchanan softball team Tuesday came out a big winner, because the Lady Rockets came up with a huge upset.
Behind a momentum-swinging first-inning home run by Kirstyn Atherton and another clutch pitching performance by Jenna Mongold, the Lady Rockets made school history by dominating top-seeded West Perry 10-0 in 5 innings in a District 3 Class 4A semifinal game at Messiah College’s Starry Athletic Complex.
JB (15-6) will now play in the school’s first-ever District 3 championship, for any sport, on Thursday against either Northern Lebanon or Eastern York, whose game was postponed until Wednesday. The site and time for the final are TBA.
James Buchanan also clinched a berth in the PIAA Tournament.
“This feels pretty good right now,” said Mongold, who improved to 8-3 on the season. “Coach (Troy) Pittman kept telling us we were the underdogs and had nothing to lose. He kept telling us all the pressure was on them and just told us to go have fun. We knew we had to play almost a perfect game hitting, pitching and defensively, and we did.”
West Perry came into the game sporting a 19-4 record and was the defending champion, but the Lady Rockets swayed all the momentum their way in the top of the first.
Maddie Bailey and Mongold opened the game with back-to-back singles and Kate Ebersole moved both runners up with a sacrifice bunt. Atherton, a freshman, then smashed a 3-run homer to right-centerfield to plate the only runs the Lady Rockets would need.
“I wasn’t trying anything special,” Atherton said. “It felt good coming off the bat, but I didn’t know it was a home run. I think scoring those early runs got us going and gave us a lot of momentum.”
Pittman knew those early runs were just what the Lady Rockets needed.
“I’ve told the girls all year long if we can score runs we can be a pretty good team,” Pittman said. “We’ve struggled at times scoring this year, but I’ve told them if we can score and keep scoring, we have the pitching and defense to win games. And our hitting has really come around the last couple of games.”
That 3-run cushion was more than enough for Mongold, who scattered 4 hits, struck out 8 and did not allow a base runner past second base.
“Troy called a really good game,” Mongold said. “We were pitching a lot inside and my changeup was working really well.”
Pittman added that Mongold was spot-on from her first pitch to her last.
“We knew we had to throw hard inside to this team and Jenna did that,” Pittman said. “And her changeup was working really well from the second inning on. It was really dropping.”
JB padded its lead to 6-0 in the third when Lindsey Meyers walked and Maddie Spencer reached on an error. Then with two outs, Maddie Bailey hit a ball to the third baseman that was thrown away at first, which allowed Meyers and Spencer to score.
JB put the finishing touches to its offensive outburst with 4 more runs in the top of the fourth.
Ebersole led off and jacked the first pitch she saw over the fence in left-centerfield.
“When I hit it I thought, ‘There’s no way it’s out,'” Ebersole said. “But then everyone was yelling and screaming and said it went over. Scoring all those runs early really took the pressure off us. We all worked together to get this win. It definitely feels pretty amazing right now and this will be something we will never forget.”
Alyssa Blair knocked in the next two runs with a double that scored Atherton and Maria Burkett, who both singled. Blair scored the final run on a passed ball.
“We’re peaking at the right time, which is what Troy has kept telling us we had to do at the end of the season,” Mongold said.
James Buchanan 10, West Perry 0
James Buchanan 402 40 – 10-10-0
West Perry 000 00 – 0-4-2
Maddie Bailey SS 3-1-1-0, Jenna Mongold P 4-1-2-0, Kate Ebersole LF 1-1-1-1, Grace Amsley LF 1-0-0-0, Kirstyn Atherton DP 3-2-2-3, Maria Burkett C 3-0-1-0, Kyrstin Nichols RF 1-2-0-0, Alyssa Blair CF 3-1-1-2, Lindsey Meyers 2-1-1-0, Maddie Spencer 2B 3-1-1-0, Brenna Hartman RF 2-0-0-0, Lizzie Pittman FLEX 0-0-0-0. Totals 26-10-10-6.
T.Johnson CF 3-0-0-0, L.McCurdy 3-0-1-0, C.Ritter 2-0-0-0, C.Shughart C 2-0-1-0, J.Santopictro 3B 2-0-1-0, G.Frederick LF 2-0-1-0, K.Zeigler 2-0-0-0, K.Weaver 2B 2-0-0-0, M.Ceprish SS 1-0-0-0. Totals 19-0-4-0.
WP-Jenna Mongold (5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB 8 K); LP-Ritter.
2B – (JB) Alyssa Blair. HR-(JB) Kirstyn Atherton, Kate Ebersole.