SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – For the last three years, the PIAA Class 1A softball title game has been just outside of DuBois Central Catholic’s grasp.
(Photo: Shay Gulvas’s third-inning home run gave DCC a 3-2 win over West Greene and a spot in the PIAA 1A title game. Photo by Jared Bakaysa of JB Graphics. See more of Bakaysa’s work here)
Relisten to the game:
The Lady Cardinals lost PIAA semifinal games to West Greene in 2016 and 2017 and then suffered a tough, one-run loss in the quarterfinals to Claysburg-Kimmel last year.
But Tuesday afternoon on a sun- and wind-swept field at Slippery Rock University, DCC finally broke through the unbreakable barrier beating two-time defending PIAA Champion West Greene, which was looking for its fourth straight trip to the title game, 3-2, to reach Friday’s title game.
“It’s amazing,” senior Ashley Wruble, who was a starter on both teams that lost to West Greene at North Allegheny High School in 2016 and 2017, said. “This is what we have been working for all year. To come back, this is the third time we have played them, and to win, it’s amazing.”
With the game hanging in the balance in the bottom of the seventh inning – West Greene had runners on first and third with two outs – junior shortstop Shay Gulvas, whose two errors in the first inning led to the first two Pioneer runs but whose home run leading off the third proved to be the difference – came up with the defensive play of the year for the Lady Cardinals.
Designated player Kiley Meek hit a ball into the hole at shortstop, but Gulvas was not only able to range to her left to get the ball, but she was also able to throw a bullet across the diamond to first baseman Alyssa Bittner to record the final out of the game.
“I was shaking the whole entire inning,” Gulvas, who admitted she slid a little on the throw to first, said. “It felt good. I knew I was going to get it. I knew to stay in front of it. That is always what Coach Heigel says. Get in front of it. If you don’t catch it, it is still going to be in front of you. It was great to know I had enough time to get her out.”
Wruble, DCC’s second baseman, had a front-row seat for the final out.
“Shay is such a good shortstop,” Wruble said. “I knew she was going to get it. She made a deep play. It was amazing. She has a really good arm, and I can trust her there. I am glad we have Shay as a shortstop.”
Watch the postgame interview with Wruble and Gulvas.
DCC manager George Heigel said he was worried Gulvas would try to get the runner, Katie Lampe, heading towards second but was glad she made the decision to throw to first.
“I was a little worried,” Heigel said. “I thought she was going to second with it. When she came up and threw it to first, she threw a strike. It was a nice play.”
Gulvas’ game-ending effort was the second strong defensive play of the inning for the Lady Cardinals.
Left fielder Maia Cogley, who started the game at second base when Wruble started in the circle, made a solid catch going far to her left on a ball that was tailing away from her off the bat of left-handed hitting West Greene pitcher Jade Renner leading off the inning. If the ball had gotten past Cogley, Renner would easily have had a double if not a triple.
“That was a nice play in the seventh inning when our left fielder Cogley went to her left on a ball that was slicing away from her,” Heigel said. “We had some nice plays.”
DCC was in the lead thanks to Gulvas, who smashed her third home run of the season, and her first since April 30, over the left-field wall leading off the third inning with the game tied at two.
“That was awesome,” Gulvas said. “That was probably the best feeling I have had in the entire world. It was right down the middle, and I knew it was over when I touched first base.”
That 3-2 lead held up because Wruble and freshman Morgan Tyler, who relieved Wruble with two outs in the fourth, were able to walk through raindrops combining to strand 12 West Greene runners including leaving the bases loaded in both the second and fourth innings.
“We just needed to stay calm, which is what Morgan and I ended up doing,” Wruble said of working around trouble. “Whenever we knew that it was a pressure situation, we knew we had our defensive behind (us). As a team, we are good defensively. I knew that we would get this win.”
DCC grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on a two-run, two-out single to center by Carley Semancik that scored Avery Sickeri and Mia Meholic, who were in scoring position thanks to a stolen base each, two of six stolen bases on the day for the Lady Cardinals against West Greene catcher, Kylie Simms.
“We were able to run and get extra bases,” Heigel said. “I think that was a key, also.”
West Greene tied the game in the bottom of the first thanks to the two errors on the same play on Gulvas.
After the Lampe sisters of McKenna and Madison led off the game with back-to-back singles, Kaitlyn Rizor hit a ball right to Gulvas that should have been an easy out at third on a force play. But Gulvas bobbled the ball and then, when she tried to throw to Sickeri at third base, threw the ball away allowing McKenna Lampe to score and Madison Lampe to go all the way to third with Rizor ending up at second.
“The defense was a little shaky in the first couple of innings in the infield,” Heigel said. “But we seemed to get that under control and played a pretty solid defensive game.”
West Greene (21-5), which lost to a Class 1A team from Pennsylvania for the first time since losing to Monessen, 2-1, April 26, 2018, added another run on a sacrifice fly to left by Jersey Wise but got greedy when left fielder Madison Hoyt’s throw was a little off the mark. Rizor tried to score all the way from second, but Gulvas’ relay throw to the plate was in time to end the inning.
The Pioneers loaded the bases in the second with just one out, but Wruble got Madison Lampe to ground to Gulvas, who was playing in, and Gulvas’s throw to the plate erased Mackenzie Carpenter for the second out. Then Rizor hit a comebacker to Wruble in the circle to end the inning.
Again in the fourth West Greene loaded the bases, this time with two outs, after having runners at second and third with one out.
Jordy Kosko, playing way in, made a nice diving catch on a ball hit by McKenna Lampe with the runners at second and third for the second out with neither runner able to advance.
“Our centerfielder had a heck of a play in centerfield when the ball was slicing or hooking,” Heigel said.
Wruble then went 2-0 on Madison Lampe, and Heigel had seen enough from his senior and, in the middle of the count, changed to Tyler, the freshman, who finished off the walk intentionally before getting Rizor to ground out to Wruble, now playing second base.
“We have been doing that for a long time now, probably 22 games where we stretch two of the pitchers out early before the game and they are ready to come in,” Heigel said. “It’s two totally different pitchers. I think that is why it has been effective. And it was effective today, I thought.”
Wruble went the first 3 ⅔ innings allowing two unearned runs on five hits, three walks and three strikeouts. Tyler came in and got the win going 3 ⅓ scoreless innings. She gave up three hits and three walks.
“Wruble had her changeup going well,” Heigel said. “I thought the strike zone from the umpire got a little tight there the (fourth) inning. That is really what prompted me to pull her and bring Morgan in. (Morgan) throws harder. She is a different pitcher. She spins the ball a little bit better and can throw inside with her backdoor curve. Her riser is effective too. They are totally different pitchers. I think that was effective.”
DCC had a couple of chances to add to the lead but couldn’t.
In the fourth, the Lady Cardinals had Cogley on second with one out, but West Greene turned the unconventional 6-3-5 double play when Kosko grounded out to shortstop and Cogley was out trying to advance after the throw was made to first.
The fifth inning saw Gulvas at second with one out after a single and a stolen base, but Sickeri grounded out and Wruble popped out to end the threat.
Then in the sixth, Mia Meholick led off with a double to left but was thrown out at the plate on a strong throw by McKenna Lampe, the centerfielder, trying to score on a one-out single to center by Bittner.
DCC will play Williams Valley in the title game at 11 a.m. Friday, June 14, at Beard Field at the Nittany Lion Softball Park on the campus of Penn State University. Williams Valley is making its fourth straight trip to the PIAA title game having beaten West Greene for the 1A title in 2016 but losing to West Greene in the championship game in 2017 and 2018.
“Honestly, I was more excited last game than I am now,” Heigel said. “This will probably hit me tonight. This was our goal. I am not blowing smoke. This was our goal. When we started the season, this was the goal. I knew we had the ability, but we needed to execute.”
Wruble was having a hard time describing what getting to the title game meant to her.
“Words cannot describe it,” Wruble said. “I am so excited for this to be my senior year and ending like this. It’s amazing.”
DCC is the fourth District 9 softball team to reach the PIAA title game in the last five years. In 2015, Elk County Catholic won the Class 1A title. In 2016, Moniteau was the Class 2A runner-up, and last year, Punxsutawney captured the Class 4A championship.
“We owe it to the coaches,” Gulvas said. “We owe it to every one of them. It is fantastic. We are so ready. We can’t wait.”
NOTES – DCC is now 17-9 overall but the Lady Cardinals are 26-0 on the field having had to forfeit nine games because paperwork on one of its players wasn’t filled out properly prior to the season.
DUBOIS CENTRAL CATHOLIC 3, WEST GREENE 2
Score by Innings
DuBois CC 201 000 0 – 3
W. Greene 200 000 0 – 2
DCC – 3
Shay Gulvas ss 4131, Avery Sickeri 3b 3100, Ashley Wruble p/2b 3010, Mia Meholick c 3120, Carley Semancik rf 3012, Alyssa Bittner 1b 3010, Emma Suplizio pr 0000, Maia Cogley 2b/lf 3010, Jordy Kosko cf 3000, Shyanne Lundy dp 3000, Madison Hoyt lf 0000, Morgan Tyler p 0000. Totals 28-3-9-3.
WEST GREENE – 2
McKenna Lampe cf 4120, Madison Lampe 3b 3110, Kaitlyn Rizor ss 4000, Jade Renner p 3010, Brianna Amos 2b 4000, Jersey Wise lf 2001, Mackenzie Carpenter rf 3020, Katie Lampe cr/pr 0000, Kiley Meek dp, 4020, Brianna Goodwin 1b 0000, Kylie Simms c 1000. Totals 28-2-8-1.
LOB: DCC 4. West Greene 12. Errors: DCC X. West Greene 0. HR: Gulvas. SB: Gulvas, Sickeri, Wruble, Meholick, Suplizio, Cogley. SAC: Simms. SF: Wise. DP: DCC 1 (Hoyt to Gulvas to Meholick). West Greene 1 (Rizor to Goodwin to Madison Lampe).
Ashley Wruble 3 ⅔ IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
Morgan Tyler 3 ⅓ IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 0 K
Totals: 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 6 BB, 3 K
Jenna Renner 7 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Winning pitcher: Morgan Tyler
Losing pitcher: Jenna Renner