By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
CATAWISSA -- Having played summer ball with her last year, Southern Columbia pitcher Mallory Tomaschik was fully aware just how talented an all-around player Lourdes Regional's CharLee Rosini is.
So with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the eighth inning and Rosini in the batter's box Friday, Tomaschik realized the Red Raiders' most dangerous hitter was able to take back the lead.
Rosini hit a 2-1 pitch for what appeared to be a deep shot to center. Tomaschik turned in the circle to see her center fielder make an easy catch and get the Tigers out of the jam.
Unfortunately for Lourdes, the same wasn't true when a similar situation unfolded in the bottom of the eighth.
Jaydn Dunkelberger ripped an 0-2 pitch through the right side of the infield and, as soon as she made contact, the Tigers started jumping up and down and screaming with excitement. Haley Levan crossed the plate for the game-winning run in Southern Columbia's 5-4 extra-innings win in the District 4 Class AA quarterfinals on a chilly Friday afternoon.
"We wanted to win as soon as we started getting down," Tomaschik said. "(It) just didn't seem like it was going to happen, but then rallying back just makes it that much better."
Lourdes collected eight hits (four doubles) in the loss and jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Caity Funk hit a single down the third-base line to drive in Peyton Klembara.
The Red Raiders (14-7) then took advantage of a handful of Southern Columbia (15-6) errors in the third inning to build a lead.
After Klembara led off with a double to left and Emily Long walked, a throwing error allowed Klembara to cross the plate. Long then scored from third on a pop out behind first base, beating the throw to the plate.
Gabby Long reached on an error in left field that scored another run for a 4-1 lead over the defending Class A state finalist.
"The girls played fantastic. I thought if we put the ball in play, we were going to come away winners. We fell just short," Lourdes coach Scott Long said. "(We) put a lot of balls in play (and) our defense played pretty well. I thought there were a couple of times where we had the game won."
Southern Columbia got the spark it needed offensively in the bottom of the fifth when Blaire Johnston crushed a towering shot over the center field fence to tie the game at 4.
"That was huge. As soon as it went over, we all just went crazy," Tomaschik said. "I think that kind of changed the game for us; that was like the turning point. After that, we all kind of fought more."
The Tigers' defense played solid all game, forcing Lourdes to strand a runner in all eight innings, including two in the seventh and bases loaded in the eighth. Tomaschik ended the game with seven strikeouts, recording the 400th of her career in the first inning.
"This was a good softball game. We put the ball in play and kept pressure on their defense," Scott Long said. "Char pitched a fine game."
Rosini struck out six for Lourdes and gave up just two extra-base hits -- a double and home run.
When Tomaschik didn't sit down a batter, the Tigers' defense stepped up.
In the sixth inning, with Rosini on second and just one out, Funk hit a bullet ticketed for the outfield. Southern shortstop Kirstin Blass made an excellent play to stop the shot and keep Rosini at second as she got Funk out. The Red Raiders grounded out two batters later to end the inning without scoring.
"That was a great play; Kirstin was so good on it," Tomaschik added. "I know we had errors, but we did have huge plays, too, when we needed them. We just have to keep working hard on defense and keep it up."
Southern tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the second when Erin Troup had a single to shallow right field to score Haley Levan.
The Tigers then cut the deficit to 4-2 in the third when Taylor Hoffman hit a single down the left-field line to drive home Blass.
The win put Southern Columbia set up a third showdown with Warrior Run, the defending Class AA champions, in next week's semifinals. The Defenders won both meetings this year.
"We all are looking forward for a rematch. We really want to play them again, hopefully beat them," Tomaschik said laughing.
"It's going to be a game no matter what, but I feel we have confidence," the senior Tiger added. "We could've beat them both games before. I feel like now with the win and things, we'll feel a little more confident going into it and want to win it more, I think."