PHOTO: Mid Valley’s Maranda Runco follows through on her 10th home run of the season in the seventh inning. (Tim Drewes Photo)
Winning pitcher Ayahna Fleisher and Lilly Feltenberger scored five times from the top two spots in the Susquenita batting order and the District 3 runner-up held off host Mid Valley, 6-5, Monday afternoon in a battle of teams seeking their 20th win of the season and a spot in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 3A state softball semifinals.
Susquenita ended the season of a veteran Mid Valley team that won Lackawanna League Division 3 and District 2 Class 3A titles while trying to work its way back to the state final where its 2021 season ended.
The Blackhawks, from Duncannon, northwest of Harrisburg, eliminated the Spartanettes in a game that took on two distinct looks.
Neither team got a runner past first base in the first three innings when a Kat Davis bunt single for Mid Valley with two out in the bottom of the third represented the game’s first hit. During that time, Spartanettes pitcher Maranda Runco shook off hitting the game’s first batter to retire the next nine, including six on strikeouts.
From there, the teams combined to score in seven of their last eight chances, trading runs with Mid Valley constantly trying to catch Susquenita.
The Blackhawks opened the lead to 6-3 by scoring twice in the top of the seventh, but the Spartanettes were not done.
Mid Valley scored twice and got the tying run to third base before Fleisher got a popout to end the game.
Runco, who had doubled and scored earlier, led off the bottom of the seventh with a home run.
Krista Cortazar lined a one-out single to center.
Kaylee Terranella singled to left and an error allowed Cortazar to score while Terranella kept going to third base.
Feltenberger, the shortstop, handled the game’s last chance, securing the popup and the Susquenita victory. She also went 2-for-3 with a walk and three runs scored to lead the Susquenita offense.
The Blackhawks got their offense – and the game’s scoring – started in the top of the fourth when Feltenberger led off with a line-drive single.
A sacrifice and an error broke the scoreless tie.
After another walk and a single loaded the bases, Runco got the seventh and eighth of her 12 strikeouts to keep it a one-run game.
Mid Valley tied the game in the bottom of the inning when Runco led off with a double and scored on Cortazar’s one-out single.
Susquenita went ahead to stay in the fifth, which Eliana Gates, Fleisher and Feltenberger started with three straight singles.
Gates, who had two hits from the ninth spot in the order, was erased on a stolen-base attempt.
Fleisher scored on a Ryleigh Prinz single and Feltenberger came home on a passed ball for a 3-1 lead.
After Fleisher got out of a bases-loaded jam to keep Mid Valley from scoring in the bottom of the fifth, Susquenita added to its lead in the sixth on a Gates RBI single.
Trailing 4-1, Mid Valley put together a comeback, scoring twice in each of its last two innings.
Emma Kobylanski and Elise Larson had back-to-back RBI doubles with two out a bottom of the sixth, which had started with a Cortazar walk.
Susquenita got what proved to be some needed breathing room by scoring twice in the top of the seventh after the first three batters reached on two walks and a hit by pitch.
Cortazar finished 2-for-3 with a stolen base, two runs and an RBI for Mid Valley.
Susquenita (20-4) advances to face District 11 Palmerton (16-9) Thursday at 7 p.m. at Pine Grove. Palmerton defeated Philadelphia Academy, 13-2, in the first round.
Mid Valley, the top-ranked Small School in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Power Rankings of District 2 teams, ends its season at 19-3.
Runco, the Villanova commit who was named Class 3A Pennsylvania Player of the Year last season as a sophomore, completed another outstanding season.
While going 19-3 with a 1.46 earned run average and 190 strikeouts in 125 innings, Runco batted above .700, had an on-base percentage over .800 and slugged 1.424.
Runco finished with 9 doubles, a triple, 10 homers, 38 runs, 39 RBI, 22 walks and a .729 batting average. She allowed 73 hits and 40 walks while throwing three no-hitters, which were each among her 11 double-figures strikeout games.
Scenes from the game in a Photo Gallery by Tim Drewes. https://nepasportsnation.com/mid-valley-susquenita-softball-photo-gallery/.