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ALLENTOWN — Eastern York can at least be satisfied in knowing that it didn't give up.

Playing in the PIAA Class 4-A state softball quarterfinals on Thursday at Patriots Park in Allentown, the first two innings hardly went the way the Golden Knights had hoped. Making the program's first-ever appearance in the state quarterfinals, Eastern York quickly found itself down by double digits after two innings against Tunkhannock.

The mercy rule seemed inevitable. The Knights, however, still made the Tigers work for it. Eastern went down swinging.

The Knights prolonged the game into the fifth inning, but ultimately saw its season come to a close with a 15-4 defeat in five innings, finishing the season at 15-7.

"Nobody quit," Knights head coach Brad Rohrbaugh said. "Nobody quit out there. ... I am so looking forward to the 2018 season that I wish it could start tomorrow."

Rough start: Eastern stranded a runner at third in the top of the first, missing out on a quality chance to get an early lead. Tunkahannock didn't take long to showcase its offense. The Tigers scored three runs in the bottom of the first to grab an early cushion, but that was only the start.

Holding that same 3-0 lead when it came to bat for the second time in the game, Tunkhannock really broke the game open in the second. The Tigers sent 13 girls to the plate, belting out six hits and scoring nine runs to build a 12-0 advantage, chasing Knights freshman ace Maelynn Leber from the contest. 

"Their hitting was phenomenal," Eastern senior Kierstin Grove said. "It's hard to put up a defense against hitting like that. When they hit it into the gaps, what can you do?"

At the time, it looked like Tunkhannock was on the verge of advancing to the semifinals in the quickest fashion possible — a three-inning, 15-run mercy rule.

No quit: However, after the second finally ended, sophomore catcher Morgan Winter pulled the rest of her teammates together and relayed a message that, if nothing else, they were going to go out knowing they gave it their all.

"I pulled them together after the second and I said, 'Guys, we have to do this for ourselves,'" Winter said. "We made it this far. We're in the state quarterfinals. So, I pulled them together and we kind of went from there. We didn't really get down and when we did, we picked each other up."

Eastern had chances to score in each of the first two innings, but failed to capitalize. In the third and fourth innings, the Knights made sure to make their hits count.

It was Winter who finally got Eastern on the board in the top of the third with a two-run double, and then Analise Fenwick and Morgan Dobeck each drove in a run in the fourth to make it 13-4.

The Tigers got two runs back in the bottom of the fourth to push their lead to 15-4, giving them the necessary 10-run cushion heading into the fifth inning to earn a mercy rule. It was up to the Knights to try and prolong the game even more by plating a pair of their own in the fifth.

Eastern got the first two runners on and had first and third with one out, but a line drive right to the second baseman led to a game-ending and season-ending double play for the Knights.

Eastern pounded 11 hits, three of which went for doubles. However, it wasn't nearly as productive at making them count as Tunkhannock.

The Tigers rattled off 13 hits, including eight for extra bases. Kendra Schultz finished a home run shy of the cycle, while Hailey Farr launched a three-run homer, which was part of the nine-run second.

Strong season, bright future: The loss marks the end of the best season in Knights softball history, which included finishing second in District 3 4-A and playing in the first two state playoff games in program history.

With only two seniors on this year's team and loads of experience to build on, the future looks even brighter for Eastern.

"I'm so excited for next year," Winter said. "We went places. We're losing two seniors and that's it. A lot of teams are losing five seniors and we're losing two and we're getting freshmen, so we just want to build. We just want to keep building."

Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com

 

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