NEWVILLE — On paper, Gillian Toomey’s job was easy.
Inserted as a courtesy runner for pitcher Maelynn Leber in the bottom of the eighth inning in Wednesday’s District 3 Class 4-A semifinal softball contest, it was up to Toomey to use her speed to create problems on the base paths for James Buchanan.
She did that, albeit, not very smartly, in her own words, her coach’s words and teammate Morgan Winter’s words. Still, Toomey did her job well enough to lift Eastern York into Thursday’s championship contest, scoring on an error in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 win over the Rockets at Big Spring High School.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Toomey said about coming in as a pinch runner. “That was probably the worst base running I’ve ever done in my softball career, but it paid off, so I don’t really care.”
After Leber got herself on base with a one-out single in the bottom of the eighth, she was taken out for Toomey. She stole second base on the second pitch to Winter and then advanced to third after the James Buchanan catcher dropped a pitch.
That made Winter’s job easy. All she had to do was put the ball in play somewhere and hope that Toomey’s smarts on the base paths would do the rest. Instead, she hit the ball directly at the third baseman. Once Toomey hesitated for a brief moment and then took off for home, she looked like a dead duck. Instead, she applied enough pressure on both the third baseman and the Rockets’ backup catcher, Grace Amsley, that a throw just wide led to it being dropped, with Toomey sliding in safely to give Eastern the dramatic victory.
“She was told to see what the play was in front of her,” Golden Knights’ head coach Brad Rohrbaugh said. “And that’s that. Next question.”
Rohrbaugh was hardly thrilled with Toomey’s decision, but he was perfectly fine with the outcome, even if it did have him on edge.
Both teams squandered chances early in the game, with bad base running costing James Buchanan two opportunities to open the game’s scoring within the first three innings. Then, a questionable call against Eastern York in the bottom of the third took a run of its own off the board.
With the bases loaded and only one out, Winter laid down a perfectly executed bunt that looked to score Morgan Dobbeck from third. Instead, the umps ruled that Winter made contact with the ball out of the batter’s box, leading to her being ruled out and sending all runners back to their previous base.
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the fifth when the fourth-seeded Golden Knights (16-5) finally broke the 0-0 tie. It was Leber who helped her own cause, singling home Dobbeck with two outs to put Eastern up, 1-0.
However, the lead didn’t last long. Poor defense in the top of the sixth quickly erased the advantage. After James Buchanan starter Jenna Mongold worked a one-out walk, she advanced to second on a wild pitch and then tested her luck trying to stretch it to third. She wound up scoring on the play after a throw sailed into the outfield, tying the game at 1-1.
The ninth-seeded Rockets (11-11) threatened to take the lead in the seventh, but Leber stranded runners at second and third to give Eastern a chance to win it in the bottom half of the frame. The Golden Knights, however, went quietly in their half, but had another shot to win it in the eighth after Leber worked a 1-2-3 top of the eighth.
Awaiting Eastern in Thursday’s championship game is a York-Adams League rival, second-seeded Kennard-Dale (17-3). The two teams split the regular-season series, and with the Golden Knights’ first-ever district title on the line, the game will provide stakes much greater than just being the rubber game.
“We’re gonna try to come out with a win (Thursday) and play to the best of our ability,” Toomey said. “I’m happy that we’re in this position and get to see them again.”
With the win, the Golden Knights also booked a spot in the state tournament, another first for the program.
“It feels great,” Winter said. “That was our goal. We said if we were playing on Thursday, whether it was in the third-place spot or the championship spot, our goal was to get to states and we did and couldn’t be happier.”
The 4-A championship will be played at York College at 4:30 p.m.
Penn Manor 3, Central York 2: At Hershey, the Panthers' dream of a District 3 Class 6-A title was squashed in the completion of a suspended game from Tuesday.
All the scoring happened in the first inning on Tuesday. The game was suspended in the third inning and was resumed on Wednesday. Neither team could score Wednesday.
Third-seeded Penn Manor (20-1) will take on fifth-seeded Chambersburg (17-5) for the title on Thursday. Chambersburg beat eighth-seeded Central Dauphin (15-8) in the other semifinal. Second-seeded Central (22-2) will face Central Dauphin in the third-place game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Lebanon Valley College, with a state playoff berth on the line. Only the top three finishers from District 3 will advance to PIAA Class 6-A state playoffs.
Against Penn Manor, Central's Courtney Coppersmith went the distance, allowing five hits and two earned runs. She struck out eight and walked none.
Briannah Dobson led Central's offense, collecting three of the Panthers' six hits, while driving in both of the team's runs. One of her hits was a double.
Britt Hook got the win for Penn Manor, allowing just one earned run with nine strikeouts and three walks. Morgan Yingling had two doubles and three RBIs for Penn Manor.
Fairfield 5, Upper Dauphin 2: At Messiah, the Green Knights captured the District 3 Class 2-A championship and secured a berth into the PIAA 2-A state playoffs.
The second-seeded Knights improved to 13-7, while top-seeded Upper Dauphin fell to 13-6.
Courtney Harbaugh went the distance for Fairfield, scattering 10 hits and one walk, with no strikeouts. He defense committed just one error behind her.
Ryleigh Bolyard had fours hits (including a double and a homer), three RBIs and two runs scored to lead the Fairfield offense.
The state playoffs start Monday for the Knights vs. an opponent to be determined.
Spring Grove title game set for Millersville University: Spring Grove will play its District 3 Class 5-A title game at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Millersville University against Cedar Cliff.
The fifth-seeded Rockets enter at 18-5, while 10th-seeded Cedar Cliff is 15-8.
Both teams have already clinched PIAA Class 5-A state playoff berths.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com