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THROOP - District 2 has sent a softball team to the state Class A championship game five of the past nine years.
The Blue Ridge-Old Forge rivalry also has meant that a championship contender has been left out of the state tournament for five straight years.
Blue Ridge is again that team.
“It’s always one swing of the bat,” Blue Ridge coach Bob Pavelski said after Old Forge edged his Lady Raiders, 2-1, in Thursday’s district championship game at Mid Valley High School.
Blue Ridge and Elk Lake each reached a District 2 softball championship games before being eliminated in low-scoring battles.
The Class A final represented the third straight year that Old Forge has beaten Blue Ridge in the district final by a single run. The last two wins resulted in Old Forge then advancing to the state semifinals in 2008 and to the final in 2009.
The Lady Raiders and Lady Devils have met in five straight finals, including 2006 when Blue Ridge needed 10 innings to get past Old Forge in the district championship game before going on to the state title. Blue Ridge reached the state final in 2002, then returned to win state titles in 2004 and 2006.
Blue Ridge has now gone three years without a state tournament berth in large part because of a strong senior class that has carried Old Forge to three straight district championships in both girls’ basketball and softball.
That talented group got help from two juniors near the bottom of the lineup who combined to produce the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Lindsay Regan doubled to the center-field fence to open the inning then scored when Jess Casey looped a soft flyball just in front of charging center fielder Courtney Collins for the winning run.
Casey had struck out twice before getting ahead in the count then getting just enough of the bat on a 3-2 pitch to deliver the winner.
“We stuck with her because she had seen (Courtney) Ucci twice in the game,” Old Forge coach Pat Revello said. “She came through.”
Casey said she learned to stay off the riseball after the first two at-bats. She took pitches and got ahead in the count 3-1. That forced Ucci to come in with strikes on the next two pitches or face Chrissy Belko, the Lackawanna League’s top home run hitter for the past three seasons, with the game on the line.
“I knew I could get the ball in play,” Casey said.
Casey won the game on the final pitch, but it was Belko’s blast on the first pitch the Lady Devils saw that put the Lady Raiders in trouble for much of the game.
Belko sent that pitch well over the fence in center field for a 1-0 lead that held up until Blue Ridge scored in the top of the seventh.
“I should have never called that first pitch,” said Pavelski, who was hoping to work the outside corner before trying to go after Belko with inside pitches.
Blue Ridge managed five hits off senior Jess Armillay, who threw back-to-back perfect games in last year’s state tournament.
The Lady Raiders got runners into scoring position in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings but Armillay carried a shutout into the seventh.
Belko, a senior infielder, was twice involved in plays that erased the lead runner. Andi Alsalahat, a senior right fielder, made a catch near the fence to end the fifth and save two runs.
Old Forge won the game on a hit by its ninth batter.
Jackie Furch, Blue Ridge’s ninth hitter, was the only player in the game with two hits and she drove in the team’s only run.
Jenna Rupakas was hit by a pitch to start the top of the seventh. Taylor Decker then placed a bunt for a sacrifice and both runners were safe when Old Forge tried to retire the lead runner.
“Our two freshmen, Jenna and Taylor, are both fast and can get the ball down,” Pavelski said of his choice to get the inning started with two pinch hitters.
Furch followed with an RBI single to left field. An error on the play put both runners in scoring position but Armillay retired the top three batters in the order to keep the game tied.
Gabby Wolfe, who hit the long shot to right in the fifth, hit the ball hard off Armillay’s glove, but senior second baseman Aleca Semenza made the play to end the inning.
Carissa Hawk doubled while Kaitlyn Krug and Ucci had singles for Blue Ridge’s other hits.
Armillay finished with eight strikeouts and did not walk a batter.
Ucci gave up six hits and struck out eight without walking a batter.
CLASS A SEMIFINALS
Both teams reached the finals with shutouts June 1.
Blue Ridge topped third-seeded Lackawanna Trail, 6-0, while Old Forge downed Freeland MMI, 7-0.
Ucci threw a four-hitter with a walk and 12 strikeouts.
Hawk, Wolfe and Erin Salinkas each had two hits. Hawk drove in three runs, Salinkas drove in two and Wolfe scored twice.
CLASS AA FINAL
Sarah Bertoni won the battle of dominant pitchers to ruin Elk Lake’s perfect season and lead Nanticoke to a 3-0 win in Wednesday’s championship game at Mid Valley.
Bertoni threw a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts.
Nanticoke, the 2003 state champion, also prevented Elk Lake from repeating its district title.
Elk Lake’s Brooke Darling struck out 12 and did not allow an earned run on six hits. She finished the season with two perfect games, three other no-hitters, 226 strikeouts and less than one earned run allowed for every two full games.
The game was scoreless through three innings.
Amanda Cardone tripled and scored on a throwing error in the fourth for Nanticoke (17-1).
Maggie Gola doubled, Ange Hillan reached on an infield single and an error helped contribute to two more runs in the sixth.
Elk Lake was the Lackawanna League Division 3 champion this year while Nanticoke won the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 East championship.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
Fourth Pocono Win For Hamlin
LONG POND, Pa. - Denny Hamlin got his fourth Sprint Cup win at Pocono Sunday after surviving a green-white-checkered finish that saw ten cars wreck behind him.
“We knew we had a good car at the beginning of the race,” said Hamlin. “This is one of my favorite tracks, and I knew if we stayed out of trouble, we’d have a good chance of winning today.”
Denny Hamlin picked up his fourth Pocono win.
The race ended with a huge crash that launched Kasey Kahne's car off the ground and collected several drivers, including Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle and others. Kahne ran through the grass after being blocked by AJ Allmendinger, causing Kahne to lose control of his car and spin back across the track. He was hit by Biffle and Martin, lifting Kahne's car off the track and sending several cars spinning.
A few laps earlier, Joey Logano spun after he and Kevin Harvick brushed.
The two drivers were racing for a top-five position when Harvick got into Logano's left-rear quarterpanel, sending him spinning. A furious Logano parked his car near Harvick's on pit road after the race and had to be restrained by his crew as he went after Harvick. Logano yelled at Harvick for several seconds before being led away by his crew.
“The 29 let me go down the straightaway and then decided to dump me in the next corner,” Logano said. "It's probably not his fault … his wife tells him what to do. … I don't know what I did to piss him off. He's just stupid.”
Harvick didn’t see it that way.
“We were both racing for the same space,” said Harvick. “I just got in there and we wound up getting together. It was just two cars going for the same space.”
Hamlin’s teammate Kyle Busch, finished second, followed by Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Juan Montoya, Clint Bowyer, A. J. Allmendinger, Sam Hornish, and Carl Edwards.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 16th, but never led a lap.
The start of the race was delayed approximately one hour, 45 minutes after a heavy rain hit the track as the cars were taking their warm-up laps.
Top-12 Chase contenders after 14 of 36: 1. Harvick-2063, 2. Kyle Busch-2044, 3. Hamlin-1927, 4. Kenseth-1905, 5. J. Gordon-1839, 6. Burton-1812, 7. Kurt Busch-1804, 8. Johnson-1770, 9. Edwards-1736, 10. Martin-1723, 11. Biffle-1715, 12. Bowyer-1694.
KESELOWSKI PICKS UP GUITAR AT NASHVILLE
Brad Keselowski led a race high 97 laps en route to victory ahead of Carl Edwards in the Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday night. The win is the third Nationwide Series win of 2010 for the first-year Penske Racing driver, and the ninth win of his career. He now has a bookend Gibson guitar trophy from Nashville to go with the one he won in 2008, which was his first series victory.
Top-10 leaders after 12 of 35: 1. Keselowski-1946, 2. Kyle Busch-1945, 3. Harvick-1852, 4. Edwards-1689, 5. Allgaier-1681, 6. Menard-1513, 7. Logano-1398, 8. Biffle-1368, 9. Leffler-1350, 10. Raines-1249.
BODINE TEXAS TRUCK WINNER
Todd Bodine dominated at Texas Motor Speedway to win Friday's WinStar World Casino 400k and made his sixth career trip to Victory Lane at the track.
Bodine drove away from four-time and reigning series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. and Timothy Peters on a green-white-checkered flag restart to notch his sixth career victory on TMS' 1.5-mile oval, and third in the summer event here. Bodine snapped a 24-race winless streak dating to June 5, 2009.
Johnny Sauter finished second, followed by rookie polesitter Austin Dillon, former series champion Mike Skinner and super-sub Ken Schrader. Bodine's margin of victory after 169 laps was 1.007-seconds.
Top-10 leaders after 8 of 25: 1. Bodine-1263, 2. Almirola-1198, 3. Peters-1128, 4. Hornaday-1108, 5. Sauter-1058, 6. Skinner-1044, 7. Crafton-1011, 8. White-999, 9. Starr-989, 10. Carmichael-989.
ROUSH AND FORD TEAMS STRUGGLING
Jack Roush’s race teams are winless since Jamie McMurray’s win last October at Talladega, and none of the current drivers have won since Matt Kenseth won the first two races of 2009.
Though Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards are all in the top-11 in points, they haven’t been close to winning and Biffle is slumping after a fast start. Edwards, who won nine races in 2008, is barely hanging on in the top-12.
Biffle had the best car at Charlotte, but couldn’t hang on at the end.
“We just can’t get our car to drive right,” Biffle said. “I was over driving it. We just want to run up front so bad and we were good, then bad. We were very hit and miss. The car just wandered around a lot out there tonight.”
Eventually, it wandered into the wall, ruining a good night for Biffle and costing him two spots in the standings.
“I just couldn’t drive it,” he said. “We got really loose in the corner and it just flat out got away from me. That pretty much did us in right there.”
While Roush continues to struggle, it also looks as if the organization has had little impact on Richard Petty Motorsports, which merged with Yates Racing during the offseason and is getting assistance from Roush.
Paul Menard finished eighth at Charlotte and teammates Kasey Kahne and AJ Allmendinger finished 12th and 14th, respectively, but none of the drivers were serious contenders and it was one of the organization’s best races of the season.
Allmendinger summed up RPM’s performance:
“We were terrible,” he said. “I am proud of my guys for taking a 25th-place car and getting 15th out of it. … It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t fun. We got a decent day out of something that wasn’t good.”
Pocono and Michigan have been Roush strongholds over the years, but Kenseth says the organization has a long way to good to return to form.
“Everybody is working on it as hard as they can, but we just have to keep working on it,” he said. “We don’t have anything that can possibly win against those guys right now, but we will keep working on it.”
Carl Edwards had nine wins in 2008, but has been winless ever since.
“Here is the deal,” Edwards said. “Roush Fenway and the Ford race cars are not as fast as we need to be right now. “What we need to do is just be faster.
“People ask me all different ways about that - but the point is we just aren't fast enough.
“And, yes, it is very important for everyone to stay upbeat and keep working and do the best you can. We can't let the frustration snowball and make things worse.
“That is probably one of the toughest things as a human - when things aren't going well, to keep your head up and press on.”
Weekend Racing: The Cup cars and Camping World Trucks are at the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway, while the Nationwide teams battle each at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway.
Sat., June 12, Camping World Trucks, race 9 of 25; Starting time: 2 p.m. ET; TV: Speed.
Sat., June 12, Nationwide Series, race 14 of 35; Stating time: 7:30 p.m. ET; TV: ESPN.
Sun., June 13, Sprint Cup Heluva Good 400, race 15 of 36; 1 p.m. ET; TV: TNT.
Racing Trivia Question: Where is the NASCAR Hall of Fame located?
Last Week’s Question: How many Cup championships did former Cup driver Dale Jarrett win? Answer. His only championship came in 1999.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julia Koloski found the perfect finish to a brilliant high school career.
Koloski leaped to a state Class AA championship in the triple jump, winning by more than a foot for the first gold medal among the seven Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state medals she has won in the past two seasons.
“The size of this meet, the amount of people watching, the level of competition, they all just make it that much better when you place higher,” said Koloski, the first Montrose girl to win a state championship.
Koloski was selected as the Susquehanna County Athlete of the Month of May for her state title and the fact that it was just part of a lengthy list of accomplishments.
At the state meet, she also finished fifth in the 100-meter dash and on the 400-meter relay and was seventh in the long jump.
Earlier, Koloski was one of the top performers at two of the biggest meets in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Koloski set a triple jump record and finished second in the 100, long jump and 400 relay while helping Montrose avenge its only regular-season loss while beating out Western Wayne for the Class AA title at the Lackawanna Track Conference’s Robert Spagna Championships.
Koloski reached the state meet by winning four district gold medals for the second straight year. She set records in the triple jump and 400 relay while also winning the 100 and long jump. That effort helped the Lady Meteors finish second in District 2 Class AA.
When she continues her track and field career on a scholarship from the University of Pittsburgh, Koloski expects the triple jump, her favorite event, to remain her specialty.
“Probably the long jump, too,” she said. “I’ll keep working on that and possibly they might need me for a relay like the 4x400.”
Julia, the daughter of John and Diane Koloski of Montrose, was also a four-year starter in soccer and a three-year starter in basketball, which she gave up as a senior to concentrate on indoor track meets during the winter.
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