SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – The Union City Lady Bears were one strike away from a berth in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals when Laurel’s Addie Deal blasted a ball over the right-field fence to send the game to extra innings.
It just meant the Lady Bears had to wait a little longer to celebrate.
Union City scored three times in the top of the 10th and, as it turned out, needed all of those runs, earning a 6-5, 10-inning victory in the Class 2A quarterfinals at Slippery Rock University on Thursday, a victory that gives the program its first-ever berth in the state semis.
“It feels amazing,” senior Eliza Reynolds said. “I’m on top of the world.”
Tied at 3-3, Union City’s Abby Tingley matched zeros with Laurel’s Grace Kissick in the eighth and ninth innings, after Kissick came on in relief of starter Autumn Boyd in the eighth. They got to her in the 10th, however, as the international tiebreaker rule (where a runner starts on second base to begin the inning) came into play.
Cathryn Reynolds, who made the final out in the ninth, started the inning at second base, and, after an infield single by her sister Eliza, the Reynolds’ moved to second and third on Sydney Gilbert’s sacrifice bunt.
Kissick got Cyaira Zielinski to line out to third for the second out, and it looked as if she might get out of the inning unscathed, but that’s when the two-out magic happened.
Kissick uncorked a wild pitch during Lucy Higley’s at-bat, allowing Cathryn Reynolds to score the go-ahead run. Higley followed with a triple into the gap that brought in Eliza Reynolds, and Jordyn Brozell put the capper on the inning with a double that scored Higley. That run proved to be critical.
Boyd was hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the 10th, putting runners on first and second with no one out and bringing the tying run to the plate. Kissick followed with an RBI single, and, just like that, the tying run was on base.
“I’ll tell you what, when I went out there for that last inning, I felt so nauseous,” Cathryn Reynolds said. “I knew we were going to win, of course. I just, I can’t even … I’ve never been in a game like this.”
After a groundout, Frankie Duddy’s sacrifice fly to right cut the deficit to one, with the tying run now at third. No matter, as Tingley locked in and struck out Eva Kuth to end the game, and the celebration was on.
“Couldn’t have asked for a better way to end it with our star pitcher, Abby,” Eliza Reynolds said.
It was a game in which Union City had to rally, something they haven’t had to do very often this season.
In the bottom of the third, Deal and Boyd hit back-to-back RBI doubles off Tingley, who has been brilliant this postseason.
It looked for a while as if those two runs may be enough, but the Lady Bears (22-1) were finally able to get to Boyd in the sixth.
“Honestly, when we get down, it’s hard to get back up, because we haven’t been in that situation very often,” Eliza Reynolds said. “It’s uncharted territory for us. For us to score those runs in the sixth inning was huge.”
Emylee Zielinski got the rally going with a leadoff single, and a one-out single by Eliza Reynolds put runners on first and third. Gilbert followed with an RBI single to cut the margin in half. The next batter, Cyaira Zielinski, put down a perfectly executed bunt to bring in Eliza Reynolds and tie the game.
Deal’s heroics were necessary because the Lady Bears plated a run in the top half of the seventh. Kam Gates-Bowersox doubled with one out, went to third on Emylee Zielinski’s bloop hit, and scored on a wild pitch with Gilbert at the plate to score the go-ahead run.
“Honestly, I can’t even explain the way I felt,” Eliza Reynolds said (after the Deal home rn) “It felt like a dream. We came into the dugout and our teammate and friend, Sydney Gilbert said ‘this is what we play for, this is why we play.’ And it was just amazing from there on out.”
Tingley allowed 13 hits and struck out seven without issuing a walk.
“She’s never let us down,” Cathryn Reynolds said.
Offensively, the Lady Bears got three hits apiece from Eliza Reynolds and Julie Burger, while Reynolds also scored two runs.
Not to be outdone, the Union City defense was once again excellent, making a number of critical plays throughout the course of the game.
“We always say when we go about before the game, we say ‘best defense in the state,’” Eliza Reynolds said. “And we believe it.”
It’s on to the semifinals for Union City, where they will meet Ligonier Valley, a 1-0 winner over Chestnut Ridge, on Monday.
“I’m on cloud nine” Cathryn said.