---- — By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
COAL TOWNSHIP -- As soon as Carley Nash let go of the pitch, Shamokin's Christi Cryder could have started to shake her head.
The Indians coach was hoping for an outside pitch against Southern Columbia's Taylor Hoffman in the top of the third inning, but instead Nash threw it right down the middle.
Hoffman hit her second three-run home run, just past the scoreboard in left field at Eddie M. Griffiths II Memorial Field, and all but sealed the game early. The Tigers defeated the Indians, 11-3, in a Heartland Athletic Conference crossover game on a chilly Monday.
"You got to give it to her -- she hit the ball," Cryder said. "Two pitches, two home runs. That pretty much (was the game) right there."
Hoffman (3-for-4, 6 RBIs, 3 runs) blasted a pair of towering homers against Shamokin (9-9), the first coming in the first inning to put Southern Columbia (14-6) ahead 3-0 on a shot that hit the outer fence located behind the field.
Both homers came on first pitches.
"They were really big, especially from everything last year," Southern Columbia pitcher Mallory Tomaschik said, in reference to the Tigers' 3-1 loss in extra innings last year to the Indians. "It really kind of gave us revenge to just show them we are the team that we really are."
The Tigers' offense sparked right from the first at-bat when Kirstin Blass and Tomaschik reached on back-to-back at-bats with a double and single, respectively, before Hoffman's first home run.
In the third inning, after Hoffman's second shot, McKenna Lupold nailed a double to the center-field fence and then scored when Erin Troup reached on an error, increasing the Tigers' lead to 7-0.
Following two straight 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth, Southern Columbia's offense heated up in the sixth thanks to a Blass sacrifice fly and a Tomaschik RBI-single on a hard grounder for a 9-0 lead.
While Tomaschik was solid offensively (3-for-4), her arm was her biggest weapon in the win. Southern's ace kept the Shamokin hitters quiet essentially all game as she fanned 14, including 12 strikeouts through five hitless innings. The Indians reached three times in those innings on a walk, hit batter and an error.
"I just told them play for outs. I don't care if they score runs, just get the outs," Southern Columbia coach Al Cihocki said. "Mal did a pretty good job. They had some kids that had some trouble getting the bats on the ball down at the bottom and I wasn't too concerned (of a comeback)."
Shamokin put its first runs on the board in the sixth.
Natalie Wolfe singled into shallow right field to break up Tomaschik's no-hit bid before Olivia Bonshock drove in Wolfe two batters later on a shallow double into right field. Courtney McGrath then hit a single into right to bring Bonshock home and cut the Indians' deficit to 9-3.
"I think that they just started to realize how I was pitching," Tomaschik said. "It looked to me that they were adjusting to my pitches and hitting them when they needed to."
Shamokin's two singles and double in the sixth were the Indians' only hits.
"It was a tough one and like I told our players, they came out and they hit the ball and we didn't until the sixth inning," Cryder said. "We were five innings too late, but I got to give it to Southern, she (Tomaschik) pitched a good game and they hit the ball."
The Tigers responded to Shamokin's rally by tacking on two in the seventh with Troup's two-RBI single to left.
Southern Columbia sent at least six batters to the plate in four innings, collecting 11 total hits off Shamokin's Nash and Helena Supsic.
"The (Tigers) played hard," Cihocki said. "We're finally starting to hit the ball like we should be hitting the ball."