By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
HALIFAX -- As soon as Greenwood second baseman Bree Pagen fielded Autumn Walker's grounder and flipped it to first base, the entire Wildcats team began screaming and smiling as they engulfed pitcher Brooke Louden near the first-base line.
It may have taken them three games to do it, but the Wildcats finally defeated Upper Dauphin in 2013 -- and this time it was with everything on the line.
"We've lost to them before and it's good to come back and know that we can win because we knew that we could win in those (regular-season) games," Louden said. "I don't think we played the way that we should in (those early games). I think we just came out and did what we're supposed to do (Thursday)."
That consisted of shutting down a potent Upper Dauphin offense (the Trojans had just three hits) en route to a 4-2 District 3 Class A semifinal victory at Halifax H.S. on Thursday afternoon.
Upper Dauphin (11-10) started the game with a monster triple to deep right-center field by Amber Bingaman, the reigning Tri-Valley League MVP, and looked as the Trojans were wasting no time answering Greenwood's (7-11) first-inning score.
However, the next three batters all grounded out. Bingaman's leadoff triple in the first was the only hit the Trojans had until she had a shallow single in the bottom of the sixth inning.
In each of the first two innings Upper Dauphin wasted a leadoff runner, and then had 1-2-3 innings in the third and fourth.
"We hit the ball hard, but it's just one of those days we hit it right at somebody and they made plays. They made plays and we didn't," Upper Dauphin coach Chad Everhart said.
Greenwood scored in the top of the first inning off a Louden grounder with one out. The Wildcats added two more runs in the third inning after Katie Osborne (two singles) and Amy Heggenstaller reached with a single and error, respectively. Both scored shortly after on wild pitches.
The Wildcats' first-inning run was the result of Brittany Fleisher reaching on a dropped third strike and safely taking third on an error the following at-bat by Heggenstaller.
"That's kind of been our motto and thing we've preached all year: You can't give teams extra outs. It'll come back to haunt you. We gave teams extra outs and it came back to haunt us," Everhart said of the error and wild pitches that accounted for three Greenwood runs. "(You) can't do that and expect to win games; it's not going to happen."
Greenwood built a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning when Osborne hit an RBI-single to shallow right field to drive in Becca Stalvey, who reached on an error.
Upper Dauphin committed five errors in the loss.
Defensively however, Greenwood played solid from start to finish. While Louden didn't record a single strikeout in the win, her pitch selection coaxed Upper Dauphin to routinely ground out or pop out in the infield. Not a single Upper Dauphin batter hit the ball out of the infield except for Bingaman's two hits and Chasity Campbell's triple.
"(Louden) did a good job hitting her spots. I thought she had her pitches working," Greenwood coach Troy Gantt said. "She's been getting stronger here. We started pitching her late in the season, and she seems to get stronger every game, so I hope we can build on that."
"My defense certainly backed me up," Louden added.
Upper Dauphin scored off a Walker sacrifice fly just past first base to bring in Katie Boyer in the fifth inning. The Trojans cut the deficit to just two runs in the bottom of the seventh when Campbell scored after hitting her deep triple into third.
Despite cutting the lead to 4-2, it didn't seem the Wildcats were concerned with a rally in any way.
"Not really because I think that our defense played really good and I think that nobody could stop us," Louden said.
The win moves Greenwood into the District 3 Class A final in a rematch against Millersburg, an 11-1 winner over Halifax in five innings Wednesday.
Millersburg lost to the Wildcats 4-3 last year as Greenwood went all the way to the PIAA state semifinals, and Louden, among others, hopes history repeats itself Tuesday at a time and place to be determined.
"I think we can beat them, too," Louden said, smiling from ear to ear. "We played them -- and we lost both times -- but we held with them both games. So I think if we played like we did (in Thursday's) game, we'll come out on top."