ERIE – Will Zachrich and his Hornets softball team put themselves in the Hickory High record books Monday.
The Hornets won the school’s first District 10 softball championship Monday afternoon by surviving Region 5 rival Jamestown 3-2 in the Class 3A title tilt at Penn State Behrend.
“This is very, very exciting,” Zachrich said. “Jamestown is definitely no slouch. They wanted to win this just as badly as we did and they came out here to win the game. It came down to who wanted it more at the end.
“From what I understand, this is our first District 10 championship and I couldn’t be prouder of what the girls accomplished out there today. It means the world to me. I don’t think they’ll realize how much it means to them for another 10 to 15 years when they are able to look back. This is more than about softball. They’re building memories that they don’t realize yet. Down the road, they’ll be able to look back and think about being the first softball team at Hickory High School to win District 10.”
The Hornets (13-6) advance to the PIAA tournament where they will meet either Avonworth (13-7) or Freeport (13-1) June 4 at a site and time to be determined. Avonworth and Freeport battle for the WPIAL bronze medal at 4 p.m. this afternoon at Hampton High School.
“As the head coach, I do my homework, so I have looked ahead a little bit, but we have to go day-by-day so I had to put it on the backburner until we won,” Zachrich said. “The state bracket is a whole new bracket for us. I haven’t scouted any of the teams we could be facing yet, but I will and we’ll be ready for next week.”
Neither team was able to mount much offense through the game’s first 5 innings with Hickory ace Autumn Black and Jamestown’s Madison Hillard locked in a pitcher’s duel, but Hillard and the Muskies blinked first in the top of the sixth.
With one away, Morgan Huey and Black sandwiched singles around Disha Patel’s two-bagger to take a 2-0 lead.
“We were able to put some runs on the board there,” Zachrich said. “We kept chipping away, looking for that momentum changer. Our bats started to come around.”
Not to be outdone, the Muskies (8-8) – who hadn’t won a playoff game prior to this season – battled back with 2 runs of its own in the bottom of the sixth with a Hornet miscue allowing Kelci Matters to score and Farah Messai crossing the plate on a Hillard single.
“That’s a testament to who they’ve been the second half of the season and right through the playoffs,” Jamestown Coach Rodney Callahan said. “They would not quit. They’re going to fight to the end. If you have a team that leaves it all on the field, you can’t ask for more than that.”
Hickory got the game-winner in the top of the seventh when Sarah Cardamon singled and scored on No. 9-hitter Ella Holland’s two-out single.
“Ella is a freshman and earned her spot in the lineup,” Zachrich said. “She’s a singles hitter and it was a good place to be in. I was excited to have her come to the plate. We had 2 outs there and I was thinking about playing some small ball, but I figured she could come through to put us on top. She did her job and executed it very well.”
Black aided her cause with a 2-for-3 effort with a RBI, while striking out 5 and issuing one free pass. Patel and Maura Mulligan each belted doubles. Huey, Cardamon and Holland had the other hits for Hickory.
“I was a little concerned about the heat we experienced today,” Zachrich said. “I wanted to take some pitches early on and wear their pitcher out a little bit and seemed like she was starting to slow down there at the end.
“Autumn was slowing down too, so we had to rely on some mixed pitches and changes to get through. You do the best you can to keep the girls hydrated.”
Jamestown managed just 4 hits – singles from Messai, Camille Engstrom and Hillard and a double from Matters – in its first District 10 championship game appearance. Hillard struck out 4, issued a single walk and scattered 7 hits in her complete-game effort.
“It’s never easy to lose, but when you put it in perspective, this was a winning season for us,” Callahan said. “These girls have accomplished so much as a team. They never quit and were so resilient. They basically wrote a whole new book for Jamestown. Before this year, we never won a playoff game and we won two to advance to the district championship game. How do you write a better script other than winning this game? I’m just so, so proud of these girls. Their hearts are hurting, but when we have our banquet, there will be a lot of smiling.”
Notes: Patel, Black and Holland were credited with RBIs for Hickory, who committed just one error. … Hillard was the lone Muskie with a RBI. … Jamestown had just one error. … Hickory beat Jamestown 8-0 and 2-0 in the regular season.