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SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – The Union City Lady Bears are making history, and having a lot of fun doing it.
For the first time in program history, Union City is in the PIAA semifinals, after a thrilling 6-5, 10-inning win over Laurel in the quarterfinal round.
Their only loss of the season to Sharpsville, 1-0, in the D10 title game is now a distant memory.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said senior Eliza Reynolds after the win over Laurel in regards to the D10 title game loss.
The Bears re-focused, and are now on the verge of a berth in the state championship game. To get there, they will have to get through a talented Ligonier Valley squad that is coming off of a 1-0 win over Chesnut Ridge. The Rams beat that same Sharpsville squad, 3-2. The game is slated for 2:30 p.m. on Monday at Slippery Rock University, after the conclusion Class 1A semifinal between DuBois Central Catholic and West Greene, which has a first-pitch time of 12 p.m.
Union City is the first District 10 team in the PIAA semifinals since 2015 when Cochranton lost to Elk County Catholic, 2-1 in Class 1A and Cambridge Springs lost to Deer Lakes, 4-3, in Class 2A.
The last D10 team to make the state championship game was Fort LeBoeuf in 2013. The Bison beat Ambridge, 4-1 in the semifinals before falling to Valley View in the title game, 5-0.
In the win over Laurel, Cathryn Reynolds scored on a wild pitch in the 10th, followed by back-to-back RBI hits off the bats of Lucy Higley and Jordyn Brozell that broke a 3-3 tie. All of the runs proved to be necessary, as Laurel scored twice before star pitcher Abby Tingley got a strikeout to end the game.
The Bears have been an offensive juggernaut all season, scoring 12.2 runs per game and outsourcing their opponents 283-26.
Tingley, a junior, has been masterful. She started the PIAA playoff run with a 1-hitter in a 9-0 win over Moniteau. On the season, she has pitched to the tune of a 0.80 ERA with 157 strikeouts in 95 2/3 innings pitched.
Union City (22-1) is hitting a remarkable .456 as a team, and it starts with senior shortstop Eliza Reynolds. The Mercyhurst signee is hitting .571 with 10 doubles, three home runs, and 29 RBIs.
Second baseman Sydney Gilbert, meanwhile, also checks in with a batting average of over .500 at .541. She is one of three Bears with 29 RBIs, joining Reynolds and first baseman Cyaira Zielinski. Gilbert also has six doubles, two triples and two home runs.
Zielinski is hitting .467 with three long balls, while Emylee Zielinski is the other member of the UC lineup hitting over .500 at .508 with 27 RBIs and seven doubles.
Cathryn Reynolds patrols right field and is hitting an even .500 with eight RBIs. Speedy center fielder Kam Gates-Bowersox at .458 with four triples. Higley is hitting .350 and Brozell .346.
Ligonier Valley (21-2), meanwhile, has a standout pitcher of its own in Madison Griffin, who has put up some astonishing numbers this season, which include nine no-hitters and a pair of perfect games. In 128 innings pitched, Griffin has struck out 285 batters, including 18 in a game on three separate occasions. She has double-digit strikeouts in -all but two games this season – nine against Brentwood and nine in the win over Sharpsville.
As good as she has been in the circle, Griffin has been arguably been the best hitter for the Rams, who finished third in the WPIAL. She is hitting .486 with 13 RBIs, six doubles, two triples, and 28 runs scored.
Center fielder Ruby Wallace accounted for the only run of the game, an RBI double in the win over Chestnut Ridge. For the season, Wallace is hitting .302 with nine RBIs. Griffin allowed just one hit in the game.
The Rams’ other top hitter along with Griffin, Haley Boyd, hasn’t played in either of their PIAA playoffs wins. She checks in with a .475 average, three doubles, and five triples.
First baseman Kalley Johnston has had a great season in her own right, batting .371 with 13 RBIs. Annabelle Schueltz occupies second base and is hitting .231, while right fielder Isabella Vargulish has a .311 average and 20 RBIs.
In the win over Sharpsville, Johnston drove in a pair of runs.
Cheyenne Piper is the other Rams’ player with double-digit RBIs at 12 and is hitting .203.
The winner will take on the winner of Line Mountain and Williams Valley on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Beard Field at the Nittany Lion Softball Complex on the campus of Penn State University for the PIAA title. The Line Mountain-Wiliams Valley game is slated for Pine Grove Area High School at 2 p.m.