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Davidson’s Dash, Kulbatsky’s Pitching Lifts DCC to PIAA 1A Softball Title Game for 3rd Time Since 2019 powered by N. Washington Rodeo

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LOCK HAVEN, Pa. – Lily Davidson wasn’t going to lie.

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She was a little surprised her manager, George Heigel, took the bunt sign off after she had fouled away a first-pitch attempt from Old Forge’s Karen Sickle with no outs in the top of the sixth inning.

After all, Lily is only a freshman, and her sister, Lauren, a senior was on first base representing the tying run in the PIAA Class 1A semifinals at Lock Haven University’s Lawrence Field.

“Yeah (I was surprised),” Lily Davidson said. “But I feel he knew I would make contact.”

Contact was an understatement, Davidson drove a ball into the right-center field gap for an RBI triple before scoring on the play herself when shortstop Lilianna Lenceski threw the ball away trying to get Lily Davidson at third.

                  

That was all DCC needed in getting a 2-1 win that sent it back to the PIAA title game for the third time in five season (2019, 2022, 2024 – no season in 2020 because of COVID-19).

“It was hit slow enough to keep running towards the fence,” Heigel, whose team will take on WPIAL third-place finisher Carmichaels in the title game at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 13, at Penn State, said. “She just kept coming. I think she got hit in the back of the head with the ball coming in. I can’t verify that, but it kicked away. She was alert enough to get up and get going. She almost had to crawl into home plate.”

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Lily Davidson said she knew she had to find a way to score.

“I just knew I needed to get a run in,” Davidson said. “It was the run that was going to put us ahead.”

Heigel’s decision to take off the bunt off had to do with the fact he didn’t like the way Davidson had bunted at the first pitch.

“She looked so bad on that bunt attempt,” Heigel said. “I thought she hit the ball pretty hard the first few times she was up, so give her an opportunity. It was a good second guess.”

Lily Davidson was the Allegheny Grille of Foxburg Player of the Game. Photo by Chris Rossetti

               

The two runs were all Rylee Kulbatsky needed.

The sophomore, who gave up a run on a two-out single to Ariana Davitt in the bottom of the fourth, retired nine of the final 11 batters she faced and had another outstanding performance in the circle with 12 strikeouts while allowing just four hits and three walks.

“Her riser was working,” Heigel said. “Her curve was working. She was throwing that backdoor curve on her fist and that was working also. A lot of those balls that were fouled off were risers. She’s good, and she throws an outside screwball too. She was effective with all three of those pitches. Her changeup, she finally got over a couple of times, too.”

While Kulbatsky’s pitching and the Davidson sisters – they were a combined 5-for-5 with a walk, two runs scored, and an RBI, gave the Lady Cardinals a chance, the game wasn’t without some nervous moments for DCC.

Usually a clutch-hitting team, the Lady Cardinals stranded nine runners through the first five innings while going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

That included what could have been a devastating fifth inning when DCC loaded the bases with no one out but couldn’t score.

“I was definitely nervous,” Heigel, whose team is looking for its first state title. “It just felt like one of those games where you kept wasting opportunities and it’s slipping away and before you know it is the seventh inning.”

DCC’s problems with runners in scoring position started in the first inning when Jesse Frank had a one-out double but Kayley Risser and Melia Mitskavich couldn’t get her home.

They continued in the second after back-to-back two-out singles by the Davidson sisters only to see Lexi Berta fly out.

               

In the third, Marina Hanes walked leading off, and Risser singled with one out, but Mitskavich popped into a double play to end the inning.

Then in the fourth, the Davidson sisters again had back-to-back two-out singles before Berta popped out to center.

“Never have we had (10) hits and struggled to score runs like that before,” Heigel said. “But, when you get to this level, you are playing against good defenses. Not just a good infield, but there is always a good outfield. They were good.”

The biggest disappointment on offense for DCC came in the fifth when Hanes, Frank, and Risser led off with three straight singles before Mitskavich poppled out, Lydia Morgan struck out, and Kulbatsky flew out to shallow right field without a run coming home.

But despite the missed opportunities, Heigel said his team never got down on itself.

“We never had our heads dragging or anything like that,” Heigel said. “Everybody stayed upbeat. And, low and behold, our freshman came through with the huge hit. How about that?’

Kulbatsky also had to pitch out of a few jams, a couple self-created and one created by uncharacteristic mistakes in the field by the Lady Cardinals.

In the second, she walked back-to-back batters with two outs before striking out Danica Pritchyk to end the threat.

Then, in the third, back-to-back errors by Lauren Davidson and Berta had runners on first and second with no outs for the top of the order before a strikeout of Lenceski got one out.

But then a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third.

Undaunted, Kulbatsky struck out Meghan Marianelli, who came into the game with a team-best six home runs but struck out four times, and Ava Arnold to end that threat.

Kulbatsky gave up a run in the fourth when back-to-back singles to lead off the inning were followed by back-to-back strikeouts.

She then got ahead of Davitt 0-2 before the sophomore singled home a run in front of Berta in left field.

Then, with the count 1-and-1 on Talia Piragas and runners on the corner, Heigel elected an unconventional move to intentionally walk Piragas moving a second runner into scoring position.

Kulbatsky awarded her coach’s faith, though, by striking out Lenceski to end the inning down by just a run.

“I think, obviously, we made the right decision putting her on base,” Heigel said. “The number two batter (Lenceski) was struggling. I think she struck out three times. That’s the reason we went with that. It worked out.”

DCC now sits one win from history. A win that would put a nice bow on top of what has been a sensation run since 2016 that has now seen the Lady Cardinals get to the PIAA title game three times while appearing in the semifinals six times in eight seasons.

“I’m excited to death for the girls to have an opportunity,” Heigel said. “The seniors were there two years ago, but I was telling the freshmen it’s quite an experience. You guys know you’ve been there and it’s, it’s like you’re playing in major leagues. It’s big time, and the PIAA does a wonderful job. I wanted the younger girls to experience that, so I’m very happy we’re gonna get to do that.”

                       

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