By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
ALLENTOWN – Jiana Moran speed home from second base with the run Pittston Area needed to tie the game and Kallie Booth followed along from first base with the one needed for the win.
The unbeaten Pittston Area softball team celebrated.
The second celebration stuck.
Tori Para ripped a two-run double to deep right-center field with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday at Patriots Park to lift unbeaten Pittston Area to a dramatic, 3-2 victory over defending Class 5A state champion Lampeter-Strasburg in a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state quarterfinal.
The one came on the preceding batter when Lady Patriots players and fans had thought they won the game with Sage Weidlich’s bunt and subsequent throwing error. With Moran across the plate and Booth halfway between third and home, however, the home plate umpire waved his arms to halt action. He called Weidlich out for being out of the batter’s box on her bunt and sent the runners back to their original bases.
Para kept the anxious and angry moments to a minimum. As soon as order could be restored and the game resumed, she ripped the first pitch, leaving no remaining doubts about the ultimate outcome and sending Pittston Area into Monday’s state semifinal against District 1 runner-up Oxford (16-7).
Pittston Area returns to Patriots Park for the 6 p.m. state semifinal.
Weidlich had helped keep Pittston Area within striking distance in the top of the sixth, sprinting straight back in center field and looking back over her shoulder to make a running catch just before flipping over the flexible center-field fence.
Lampeter-Strasburg eventually added a second run on Chloe Meck’s two-out single for the first and only hit off Gianna Adams, but Weidlich’s catch helped avoid a potential two-run homer.
Pittston Area then cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the sixth.
Bella Giardina, who had hits in her first two at-bats, walked with one out. She moved up when Ava Callahan was hit by a pitch and scored when Adams singled through the left side.
“The sixth inning was big, getting a run and turning the lineup over,” Lady Patriots coach Frank Parente said.
The Lady Patriots kept going in the bottom of the seventh when Moran, a senior, came off the bench as a pinch hitter. She worked just the second walk of the game by Keiva Middleton.
“A lot of patience,” Parente said. “ … She gave us a great at-bat.”
Booth, who was 2-for-3 with a double, placed a sacrifice bunt and wound up safe on an error.
That set up the exciting finish.
After thinking they won it once, the Lady Patriots took just one pitch to finish it off.
“We knew going back into the dugout that the game’s not over,” Adams said. “We had all the confidence in the world in Tori.”
Para, who had been 0-for-3 with a strikeout, delivered.
“It felt very good,” Para said. “My first three at-bats weren’t the best, but I felt like I knew where she was going to throw to me.”
Adams walked five and struck out eight, including one to escape a bases-loaded jam after she walked in an unearned run in the fifth.