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Trojans march into PIAA semis - softball

June 11, 2004|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

HERSHEY, Pa. - A hit here or a fielding play there by Pennsbury, and Chambersburg could have been in serious trouble during the PIAA Class AAA state softball quarterfinals Thursday.

Instead, the Falcons were the ones who had problems. And the Trojans were more than happy to expose them.

Pennsbury stranded 11 base-runners, including eight in scoring position, and committed five errors, leading to two unearned runs for the Trojans, who capitalized for a 2-1 victory.

"It was a tough ballgame," Chambersburg coach Harvey Staver said. "We got a couple of breaks, but we also got one of the gutsiest performances we've had in years."

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The Trojans (24-3) will face Parkland, a 2-0 winner over Exeter, in the semifinals Monday at a site and time to be announced. It will be Chambersburg's first trip to the semifinals since 2001, when Pennsbury upset star pitcher Steph VanBrakle and the heavily favored Trojans on the way to the title.

Thursday, it was payback time for Chambersburg, the underdog this time.

The Falcons entered the game 24-1 and had yet to trail in a postseason game. Their ace on the mound, Lauren Cognigni, entered 20-1, allowing only one run in the postseason.

"Last time, we had the target on our backs," Staver said, "so I know what it's like."

Pennsbury took aim to put the Trojans away early Thursday. After Cognigni shut down Chambersburg in the top of the first inning, the Falcons loaded the bases on two walks and a bunt single in the bottom half against Trojans starter Rachelle Everhart, who had yet to record an out.

"That first inning, I didn't know what to expect. But we pulled it off," said Everhart, who sandwiched a strikeout between two infield popouts to end the Pennsbury threat.

The Trojans avoided more potential damage in the second. Second baseman October Smith gunned down a runner at the plate on a fielder's choice grounder and Everhart got out of another bases-loaded jam, but not before Alyssa Francona, the daughter of Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, drew an RBI walk for a 1-0 lead.

"Getting out of that with only one run was key," Staver said.

Chambersburg answered with an improbable two-run rally in the fourth.

With two outs and the bases empty, Lindsay Hinton doubled to center for the Trojans' second hit of the day.

"Once Lindsay got up and hit the ball, I had confidence with Emily (Swartz, the cleanup hitter) coming up," Everhart said. "I knew something good was going to happen."

Swartz followed with a comebacker to Cognigni, who fielded the ball cleanly but made an errant throw to first, allowing Hinton to score. Swartz, who advanced to second on the play when first baseman Rachael Crossin's late throw to the plate was off-target, scored the go-ahead run when second baseman Kristin McDaniel bobbled Lindsay Tritle's grounder and made a wild throw to first.

The Trojans only had one more baserunner the rest of the game - Hinton reached on an infield single in the sixth. But the one-run lead was enough for Everhart (14-2) and the Trojans, who forced Pennsbury to strand four more runners in scoring position over the last three innings.

"We battled back and tried as hard as we could," Cognigni said. "It was just tough breaks. But that's the game."

The game began at noon Thursday because Chambersburg's graduation was later in the day.

"The seniors wanted to graduate as winners," Staver said. "That's what they did."

"It's a big win. We were the underdogs," Hinton said. "We wanted to go home and show people that we came back on top."

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