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PIAA Softball Championships

STATE CHAMPS: DuBois Central Catholic Softball Team Battles Past Carmichaels, 2-0, to Capture Elusive PIAA Crown

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (EYT/D9) — The feeling never went away. Not really.

Two years ago when members of the DuBois Central Catholic softball team walked somberly off the field at Nittany Lion Softball Park following a disheartening 5-1 in the PIAA Class A championship game, they were distraught.

But galvanized.

The lone goal since was to get back. Avenge that loss. Leave that field with a completely different emotion.

DCC did just that on Thursday. Sophomore Rylee Kulbatsky was dominant again, throwing a three-hit shutout and striking out 15, and Marina Hanes and Melia Mitskavich drove in runs as the Cardinals downed Carmichaels, 2-0, to win program’s first state title.

“Truly no better feeling than finally getting this win,” Mitskavich said. “It’s been the goal for a long time. We know how it feels on both ends of this.”

It wasn’t easy — state championship victories rarely are.

Carmichael’s pitcher Bailey Barnyak matched Kulbatsky pitch for pitch early as both hurlers were mowing down hitters at a brisk pace.

Kulbatsky had a perfect game for four innings and DCC finally broke through against Barnyak in the top of the fifth when No. 9 hitter Lexi Berta doubled and then scored on a RBI double by Hanes.

That’s really all Kulbatsky needed, but she and the Cardinals got an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning against the Mighty Mikes on a RBI triple by Mitskavich.

Kulbatsky, who has emerged this year as a sophomore as one of the best pitchers — if not the best — in the state, did the rest.

Ali Jacobs was the only one for Carmichaels who could really solve her. Jacobs had a single and double for two of the three Mikes’ hits.

“I couldn’t have done it without my team — we did so well in the biggest game of the year and it means everything to me,” Kulbatsky said. “It’s all about hard work, dedication and teamwork paying off when it matters the most. It’s an incredible feeling to see the effort we’ve put in all season come together in such a crucial moment.”

DCC has won games handily this season, sure. But the Cardinals have also been in a few tight games like this one.

They finished the season with a remarkable stat. DuBois Central Catholic didn’t give up more than two runs in any game this season, including 11 shutouts.

“I can’t say enough about Rylee,” said senior catcher Jessy Frank, who developed a close bond with Kulbatsky. “She has so much heart. She puts so much heart into the sport and this team, and we couldn’t have done it without her.”

Jacobs broke up Kulbatsky’s perfect game with a leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth, but Carmichaels could do nothing with it.

The only threat the Mikes made came in the bottom of the seventh when Jacobs led off with a double, but again Kulbatsky bore down and got a fly out and a pair of strikeouts to end the game and send DCC into celebration.

Two years of pent up emotion.

“It feels insane,” Frank said. “It’s all we have wanted for the past four years. Every single person has worked so hard to get to this point and it feels so good that seven of us (the seniors) get to end our careers on such a positive note.”