Beca ends Tigers’ softball season
Exactly one year to the day and at the same ballpark, Northwestern Lehigh looked for some payback against Bethlehem Catholic for its loss in last year’s district finals.
While it was a different year, everything else remained the same as the Golden Hawks downed Northwestern Lehigh 6-4 to bring an abrupt end to the season for the Lady Tigers. The loss also ended the high school careers of seniors Brynn Balliet, Morgan Farthing, Olivia Stofflet and Izzy Teprovich.
Neither team played a flawless game in this year’s finals, but Beca was able to put together one big inning that sent the Golden Hawks to the PIAA tournament as District 11 champions.
“You hate to lose in a game like this where you could have played better,” said Tiger head coach Josh Zimmerman. “We had a bit of a difficult day, but while we made some mistakes, the effort was there for us, so we can be proud of that and celebrate the fact that we were good enough to still be playing tonight.”
The Golden Hawks (18-4) put together a first inning run with a two out double from Hailey Pyle followed by a single off the bat of Teighan Boyle.
For the Lady Tigers, the first six batters of the game went down in order before Rylee McGinley became their first baserunner when she drew a leadoff walk from pitcher Emma Bond to open the third inning.
One out later, Northwestern (18-5) got its first hit of the game when senior Quinn Conrey doubled to put runners on second and third and the next batter, Izzy Akelaitis gave Northwestern Lehigh its first run with a sacrifice fly to bring home McGinley and a fielding error on the play also allowed Conrey to score and give the Lady Tigers a 2-1 advantage.
While Northwestern came close to plating a run in the fifth, the fourth and fifth innings were dominated by Bethlehem Catholic.
In the fourth, a hit batter, single and wild pitch put runners on second and third for the Hawks and junior Kristal Torres grounded a ball through the middle to put Beca back in front 4-3.
An inning later, Leah Chladny tripled with one out and scored on a base hit by Hailey Pyle. A fielding error and an infield hit loaded the bases for the Hawks and freshman Sarah Banko delivered with a two-run grounder to left that gave Bethlehem Catholic a 6-3 advantage.
“When you get to this point in the season, you just can’t afford to have that bad ending where the wheels kind of fall off,” said Zimmerman. “We were getting the bat on the ball and had a very limited number of strikeouts, it had more to do with the defensive side of the ball and you can’t give a quality team like Beca extra outs.”
Balliet did her part on the mound and kept Bethlehem Catholic from doing any further damage as the Tigers offense looked to ambush the Hawks.
Stofflet led off the sixth with a double and one out later, Hawks first baseman Francesca Oberholzer collided with Boyle, who came out from behind the plate to attempt to make a play on a pop-up.
The ball fell to the ground and Northwestern had runners on first and third with one out. Teprovich hit a little grounder to third that Banko thought about coming home with, but instead, took the sure out at first as courtesy runner Shelby Mitman crossed the plate to make it 6-4.
Bond regrouped on the mound as did the Bethlehem Catholic defense and the final five batters in the game were retired to give the Hawks the district championship.
Zimmerman ran the numbers before the game and discovered that his group of senior players won an average of 18 games per season during their three seasons with Northwestern, which is an impressive number of wins.
It shows in the fact that the senior class made three appearances in district championship games and two in Colonial League championships with gold medals around their necks following the 2021 league schedule. Considering there was no 2020 season, this class was 3-for-3 when it came to posting successful postseasons.
“The results speak for themselves,” said Zimmerman. “Eighteen wins per season is pretty special and we are going to miss this group. They left their blood, sweat and tears here at Northwestern Lehigh and they left an indelible mark on the program.”