Falcons earn District 11 silver
Some people think Pine Grove might be talented enough to win a state championship this spring.
It’s tough to argue with those claims, especially after Friday’s dominant showing in the district softball final. Pine Grove defeated Salisbury in five innings, 12-0, at Blue Mountain High School to capture the District 11 Class 3A crown last week.
Salisbury head coach Jeff Appleman knew how tough the Cardinals were before his team made the trip.
“They’re the real deal,” he said. “They are 24-0 now for a reason. They’ve got some talented kids. The kid got 200 hits…that’s hard to do. The other kid hit one and that ball is still going down the road. They have players. It was great for us to get here.
“I don’t know our entire history, but we’ve never won districts. I know that. It’s been forever I think since we’ve even been this far. We’ve been to the semifinals twice since I’ve been here.”
The talent was evident and it showed early. A leadoff walk by Katelyn Rittenbaugh, who collected her 200th career hit in the game, got a five-run first inning underway.
Trish Kopinetz then doubled in the next at-bat for her 150th career hit that brought home Rittenbaugh for a 1-0 lead. Olivia Lehman singled to center field to put runners on first and third for the Cardinals, and Megan Wolfe’s sacrifice fly brought in another run.
Maura Lehman scored on a double steal attempt, and Kamryn Stine’s RBI-single closed out the scoring in the first for the Cardinals.
“It’s really difficult when they get the leadoff hitter on because they make you pay,” Appleman said. “They are very disciplined. They run the bases well. They don’t swing at bad pitches. You are going to have to beat them. Last year we only lost 5-2 and it was the same exact team.”
The third inning was even bigger for the Cardinals. Avery Nagle and Lehman opened the frame with back-to-back doubles to get the seven-run inning started. The next four batters reached base before the highlight play of the game unfolded.
Kopinetz blasted a grand slam home run deep over the left field fence to make it a 12-0 advantage after Casey Kershner, Autumn Behrent and Rittenbaugh all crossed home.
“I’m very proud of them because they are fighters,” Appleman said. “They get better a little bit every day. That’s why you come to practice. We had nine errors our first game. We made some errors today, but it got so much better in certain positions.”
It was the same team that Appleman and the Falcons saw last season when Pine Grove eliminated Salisbury in the semifinals, 5-2.
“We made a lot of plays last year with Lilia (Crouthamel) and Anna (Bishop), and we’re younger [this year],” Appleman said. “We have swimmers. We have debate champions and field hockey players.”
The Falcons will have to replace a number of seniors. Leadoff batter Peyton Stauffer and infielder Hannah Lipkin lead the way, along with Gretchen Helsel and Sara Lamana.
But there’s still a solid core of returning players that will be back that helped Salisbury upset two teams in the district tournament, including Colonial League champion Palmerton in the semifinals. Starting pitcher Emily Silberman, a junior, will be a key leader on the mound once again in 2020.
“We have a pitcher and catcher and you make the rest work,” Appleman said. “It’s still a lot to replace.”
Stauffer walked twice in the game, while Silberman, Lamana and Marcie Silberman all singled for Salisbury.