---- — By Eric Shultz
For The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT -- In a win-or-go-home contest, both defenses did just about everything to keep their seasons alive.
Only one side could advance, though, and Jersey Shore was the team that ultimately broke through after nine innings to upset Mifflinburg in the teams' District 4 Class AAA softball semifinal matchup Thursday, 1-0.
"Their defense kept them in the game the whole way," Wildcats coach Steve Ross said. "That's the thing about them, I knew if we didn't punch at least one or two across early, it was going to be a tight ballgame."
After the Wildcats (17-4) kept the Bulldogs (14-8) without a hit from the fifth through eighth innings, third baseman Holly Peacock ripped a pitch from Alli Lloyd into left field for a lead-off triple in the ninth. The hit went over left fielder Margaret Wiand and nearly rolled to the wall.
Catcher Bryce Hillyard got a ground ball through the left side in the next at-bat for an RBI single, driving home what became the winning run.
"We had several at-bats where we were swinging at junk, swinging at stuff up top," Bulldogs coach Chris Glenn said. "And I told them, you've got to take a pitch here, you got to see our ball, and (Hillyard) did that."
The lone run handed the loss to Lloyd, who pitched an stellar game. Lloyd threw all nine innings, striking out five and allowing only two multi-hit frames.
"(Lloyd) was a trooper ... she did everything right today," said Wildcats coach Steve Ross. "It's hard to put it into words after a game like that."
But Lloyd never saw run support come from the Wildcats.
Down to their final three outs, the Wildcats led off the bottom of the ninth with a single by Sara Stauffer. Mackenzie Kyler then hit a hard line drive, but first baseman Brianne Brewer caught it before it could reach the outfield.
Centerfielder Molly Davis moved Stauffer to second on a ground ball into left field, but a Wiand fly ball and a ground out by Nicole Brouse ended the game.
The Bulldogs were led by strong pitching by Rebecca Caputo, who struck out only two but held the top-seeded Wildcats to seven hits in nine innings of work.
"I think that she keeps her head, she doesn't worry about giving up a hit (or) a girl walking. She goes back to work and she stays focused," Glenn said. "I can't be more proud of the girl. I think she did a wonderful job."
Also keeping the Wildcats off the scoreboard was centerfielder Kayla Allen.
Allen made several sliding and diving catches, including a third out in the second inning with runners on the corners. In the eighth, Allen ended the inning with another diving play, but injured her knee enough for Glenn to pull her from the game.
Timely defense by the Wildcats held the Bulldogs scoreless for eight innings, too.
After the Bulldogs loaded the bases in the third with one out, Lloyd recorded a strikeout and fielded a ground ball to retire the side.
The next inning, Caputo was on second base with two outs. Brewer put a hit through the middle, and Caputo rounded third base. But Davis fielded the ball and got her throw to the plate ahead of Caputo for the out.
After that frame, Lloyd settled in and retired the next 12 batters she saw before Peacock began the game-winning rally.