A very young Wallenpaupack Area squad came within a whisker of winning another Lackawanna League title this past week.
Paupack's junior high softball team carried a 5-3 lead into the top of the seventh Thursday against North Pocono, but just couldn't put the hard-hitting Trojans away.
The visitors from Moscow erupted for five runs in their final at-bat to rally for a wild 8-5 victory on the season's final day.
Had Coach Chris Doty's girls managed to stave off that last rally, these two teams would have ended the season in a dead heat.
As it turned out, North Pocono claims the regular season crown with a 9-1 record. Paupack earns runner-up status at 7-3.
"These kids have really made some great strides in the second half of the season," Coach Doty said. "We're quite pleased and proud of their progress."
The Lady Bucks have been a perennial power on the junior high softball scene with Doty at the helm. In fact, Paupack has won or shared the league title in four of the past six years.
Setting the Stage
Heading into the final week of the 2013 season, all signs seemed to be pointing at a 2-team race between North Pocono and Paupack.
As it turns out, that was indeed the case.
The Lady Bucks absorbed a heartbreaking 9-8 loss at the hands of Ding-Del last Friday. However, that setback seemed to light a fire under the team.
The local lasses bounced back with a vengeance, hammering out an 18-4 win over Lehman Intermediate.
Angelina Ioppolo terrorized ESN pitchers, unloading an RBI triple and run-scoring double.
Alyssa McKean, Tabitha Boyd, Alyssa Watson, Jenna Schoenagel, Brittany Merrigam, Natalie Montalvo and Courtney Mooney each contributed a key base knock.
Page 2 of 3 - Britney Matern earned the pitching decision for Paupack, fanning six and walking four.
This set the stage for the first battle between the league frontrunners, a game Paupack dominated en route to a 7-1 triumph.
"We started out slowly in this one," Coach Doty said. "But, as the game wore on our kids began to realize that they could play with a team like North Pocono.
"They began to do some of the things we've worked really hard on this year and they paid off. We got down key bunts and ran the bases extremely well."
Olivia Gregory went to the circle as Paupack's starting pitcher and turned in a masterpiece.
The talented young righty went the distance for a complete game. Gregory allowed just four hits in seven innings while fanning four and issuing only one free pass.
McKean and Ioppolo paced the Lady Bucks' offensive assault with two hits each.
Sabrina Boyd, Watson, Erin Worzel and Gregory rounded out the attack.
North Pocono leapt out to an early lead in Thursday's all-important re-match.
Chloe Pehanick led off the game by smoking a double, then eventually scurried home courtesy of JJ Hawley's sacrifice.
Gregory was back in the circle for Paupack and settled down after the Trojans' in initial outburst.
Olivia piled up seven Ks and surrendered just two additional runs before North Pocono's final uprising in the top of the seventh.
Offensively, Paupack went quietly in the home half of the first, but then torched Pehanick in the second.
The Lady Bucks batted around in the frame, sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring five runs.
Page 3 of 3 - Worzel and Watson each contributed a big blow in this rally by ripping RBI base knocks.
Sadly for a big, enthusiastic hometown crowd, Paupack wouldn't score again on this day.
North Pocono closed the gap to 5-3, then capitalized on several Lady Buck errors to seal the deal in the top of the seventh.
Score by Innings...
NP (9-1) 1 0 0 2 0 0 5 - 8
WA (7-3) 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 - 5