WEST SUNBURY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Moniteau won with a lot of “Grace” Tuesday afternoon.
Needing two wins to secure a District 9 Class 2A playoff spot, the Warriors got two solid pitching performances from senior Haylee Grace, two clutch RBIs by senior catcher Grace Thurner and a three RBI game by Emma Covert in the nightcap to sweep Redbank Valley in a doubleheader, 4-3 and 8-5.
“It’s definitely huge,” Grace said. “It extended my season at least another week.”
(Above, Haylee Grace, left, and Grace Thurner)
Grace got the win in relief of Covert in the second game after the Warriors fell behind 5-1. She threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up four hits and striking out three, including the final batter of the game to escape a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning.
The right-hander started the first game, giving up three runs — two earned — and striking out six in five innings.
Covert picked up the win in relief in the opener, striking out four in two shutout innings.
Grace and Covert have become quite the 1-2 punch in the circle for the Warriors.
“Haylee did a great job in both games,” said Moniteau coach Bob Rottman. “Today was her first varsity win.”
It came at the best possible time.
Moniteau’s game with Clarion was postponed Monday. That meant the Warriors needed a sweep of Redbank to clinch a playoff berth.
Meanwhile, Redbank Valley was looking to play the spoiler while closing it season strong.
The Bulldogs led 1-0 in the top of the first in the opener on a RBI single by junior catcher Paytin Polka, who has been one of the most dangerous hitters in the Redbank lineup down the stretch.
Moniteau charged ahead with three runs in the bottom of the third, keyed by a pair of Bulldog errors.
Redbank tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the fifth on a run-scoring double by Nevada Boyer and a RBI single by Bailey Snyder.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth when Moniteau pushed across the winning run on a sacrifice bunt by Autumn Stewart that scored Addy Williams from third.
Covert got a pair of strikeouts and a pop up to Stewart at first to secure the win in the opener.
Moniteau (7-7) has been in a lot of close games this season and many of the Warriors’ wins have come because of late-inning rallies.
“That seems to be our M.O.,” Rottman said. “All year. I think all of our wins have been us hanging around and then have a big inning or a comeback win. Seems like our losses are we’re right there and it happens the other way. We’ve played really well this year and we’ve played a lot of tight games.”
The nightcap was another.
With Redbank Valley the home team, the Bulldogs built a 5-1 win after four innings, thanks to RBI singles by Josie Neiswonder and Polka, who drove in two more runs in the second game.
That was it for the Bulldogs, however.
Moniteau scored twice in the top of the fifth to cut the lead to 5-3, keyed by a RBI single by Covert and a two-out RBI double by Thurner, and took the lead with a four-run sixth.
Destiny Travis walked with the bases loaded and then Moniteau took the lead, 6-5, on a strange, two-run sacrifice fly by Covert that scored Stewart from third and Mariska Shunk from second as Redbank right-fielder Keyana Schimp made a diving grab.
At first umpires ruled Schimp had trapped the ball. Schimp threw to second to nab pinch runner Brianna Rottman. After conferring, they determined Covert was out and Rottman was safe at second.
Megan Wise followed with a RBI double for a 7-5 lead and Moniteau tacked on an insurance run in the eighth.
It looked as if the Warriors would need it.
Jenna Bailey led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, Taylor Ripple hit a ringing one-out double and Mackenzie Foringer walked to load the bases.
But Grace was able to get out of it and send Redbank home with two more tough losses.
“It’s been the story of our season,” lamented Bulldog coach Lee Miller. “We’ve had a lot of growing pains, and we’ve had so many little things happen all year that’s cost us. It’s a growing experience, things we’ll learn from and hopefully improve on for next year.
“I talked to the girls. We knew this year was going to be a process,” Miller added. “I think the last two or three weeks we’ve been playing pretty good ball. The future looks bright.”
The future is here for Moniteau, which will begin the playoffs next week.
For Thurner, who thought she wouldn’t make it back in time for any games this season, it’s a relief.
“It feels amazing,” Thurner said. “Just being on the field and being able to contribute to the team in such a big way is a great feeling.”
Doctors told Thurner when she had the surgery to repair her labrum in October that there was little chance she’d be able to play this spring.
She proved them wrong, returning last week.
“It was a long ride,” she said, smiling. “I was little scared at first because I didn’t want to hurt it again. It’s my senior year and I wanted to keep my season going. Now that we get to go to the playoffs, it’s the best feeling ever.”