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Softball falls in EPC final

The Northampton softball team’s third straight trip to the EPC championship game ended with the K-Kids still in search of their first EPC title as Nazareth claimed the trophy after a hard-fought, 5-3 win at Pates Park last Thursday.

Northampton took advantage of some Nazareth defensive miscues: a dropped third strike, failure to cover first base on a bunt, and a throwing error, to plate two runs in the top of the second inning to open the scoring. The Blue Eagles scored a pair of unearned runs in the bottom half of the frame to tie the game at 2-2.

The K-Kids reclaimed the lead in the top of the third. Ava Cascario stroked a 1-out single to left and Ro Echevarria followed by blasting a 2-0 pitch to the opposite field for a triple to make the score 3-2.

The shift in momentum prompted a Nazareth pitching change. The Blue Eagles turned to freshman Avery Kauffman and she shut the door, not only on the remainder of the third inning, but for the rest of the game.

Kauffman struck out the next two Northampton batters to end the third, the first two strikeouts of a performance that saw her rack up 10 Ks out of the 16 hitters she faced.

Head coach Kristy Henritzy appraised the performance, “Avery Kauffman came in and pitched great. We didn’t hit her. We had too many strikeouts. We looked at too many nice pitches and swung at bad pitches. She shut us down for two innings the first time around (a 5-0 Kids’ win on April 19). She’s a good pitcher.”

Hannah Makovsky’s single to lead off the top of the seventh inning was the only hit for the Kids over the final 4 2/3 innings and the only ball that even left the infield against the Nazareth hurler.

The Blue Eagles tied the game in the fourth with a 2-out, bases loaded single to left. Makovsky gunned down the would-be lead run at the plate to keep the K-Kids even at 3-3.

Nazareth converted a leadoff double in the fifth into the eventual winning run. They added an insurance run in the sixth on a 2-out bases loaded walk.

While the loss certainly stung, Northampton can look to its own recent history for positive motivation. They rebounded from their previous two EPC championship game losses by claiming back-to-back District XI 6A titles.

“It’ll be all right. It’s cool to be here. It’s like I told them, ‘We can’t hang our heads, we just got second in EPCs. You got a medal, that’s super cool. Not everybody can say that.’ Now we go on to districts,” said Henritzy.

The K-Kids’ path to a district title three-peat begins this afternoon with a home game against Easton at 4:30. The Kids and Rovers did not play in the 2023 regular season. Easton was 13-7 overall, 9-7 in the EPC, and 2-6 against the other qualifying teams in the 6A classification. They lost 10-3 to Whitehall in the EPC quarterfinals.

If Northampton advances to the semifinals, they will play the winner of the Freedom vs. Stroudsburg game. The semis are slated for Tuesday at Patriots Park, but the time is TBD. The K-Kids beat the second-seeded Patriots 4-2 on May 4 and defeated the Lady Mounties 9-7 on April 11. The district final is Thursday, June 1 at Pates.