UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – There were tears shed among the DuBois Central Catholic softball players Friday afternoon at Beard Field on the campus of Penn State University.
(Photo by Jared Bakaysa of JB Graphics. See more of Bakaysa’s work here)
They were tears of sadness as the greatest season in DCC softball history came to an end in a temporarily disappointing 5-0 loss to Williams Valley in the PIAA Class 1A championship game.
I say temporarily disappointing because, at some point in the next few days or weeks, members of the 2019 DCC softball team will have a chance to reflect on what they accomplished this year. What they meant to their school and what they meant to their community.
They will remember how they banded together as a team when they learned that the first nine games they won this year were going to have to be forfeited because – for a variety of reasons – adults at the school hadn’t filed the proper paperwork on a new player.
Lesser teams could have let that outside distraction ruin what otherwise turned out to be a great season. Lesser teams would have let the outside voices of adults – who should know better – complain that high school kids should be kept out of the District 9 let alone PIAA playoffs because their school, up to this point hadn’t taken the position of athletic director seriously (something that is thankfully changing).
Lesser teams would have been disappointed that despite entering the District 9 playoffs with a perfect record on the field of play the Lady Cardinals were seeded fifth in the bracket because District 9 can’t seem to bring itself to come up with a way to seed teams that doesn’t involve a mathematical formula. Everyone knew DCC was the best team in the bracket going in. Everyone knew they were the favorites to win the District. But all D9 could do was say that it told teams they would be seeded on a formula that only took into account wins and classifications of teams they beat. The argument for how dumb that system of seeding is can be saved for another time, but the end result that was the best team in the district was going to have to be the visiting team in all of its postseason games.
No problem. DCC ran through Coudersport, Otto-Eldred and even a strong Clarion team that went on to finish in the final eight in Pennsylvania in Class 1A with little trouble to win their third D9 title in the past four years.
The Lady Cardinals then headed to the PIAA playoffs and continued to cruise with a 14-4, six-inning win over Leechburg.
But then things got a little dicey for DCC.
A Claysburg-Kimmel grand slam helped stake the Lady Bulldogs to a 5-3 lead going to the bottom of the seventh inning of the PIAA quarterfinals at Mt. Aloysius.
Even though the Lady Cardinals got two runners on base in the seventh, things looked bleak when senior star Ashley Wruble got behind in the count with two strikes on her.
That is where lesser teams would have quit, would have said “hey its been a great season, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
But not Wruble and the Lady Cards. Shortening up her swing, Wruble came up with perhaps the biggest hit in DCC softball history poking a single up the middle over the second-base bag to tie the game at five. DCC then won the game when freshman Avery Sickeri came up with the game-winning hit in the ninth inning.
Next up, an old nemesis, West Greene, who had twice in the past four years ended DCC’s season in the semifinals beating the Lady Cards in 2016 and 2017.
Things started out great as DCC grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. But West Greene answered with two runs in the bottom of the first.
The Lady Cards went back up, 3-2, on a Shay Gulvas homer in the third and held that lead into the bottom of the seventh.
But with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, back-to-back hits by West Greene gave the Pioneers, who had been the two-time defending PIAA 1A champion, runners at the corners. The next batter hit a ball deep in the hole at shortstop and the game looked like it was going to be tied up.
Maybe for a lesser team.
Not these Lady Cardinals.
Junior shortstop Shay Gulvas made the play ranging in the hole and, despite slipping a little while throwing the ball, threw a strike across to first to seal the game and send DCC to Penn State for the championship game.
And, again, while the championship game didn’t end the way DCC or its faithful hoped, it didn’t diminish a season that will be remembered 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 years from now.
Junior centerfielder Jordy Kosko summed it up best after the game saying, “the experience was great. We have never been this far before. We made history.”
Yes, you did Jordy. History that perhaps a lesser team would not have made.