Wallenpaupack Area's girls varsity softball team was eliminated from the Class AAAA title chase.
Fresh off their 5-1 win over Valley West, Paupack made the long trip deep into the belly of Luzerne County to take on Hazleton Area in the PIAA District II Softball semifinals on Thursday.
In the circle for the 13-1 Cougars was Becky Demko, while Brittany Guerrieri did the pitching for 12-2 Paupack.
Demko established control right from the start by taking out the lead-off hitter with a strikeout and then got some help from her fielders as the Cougars took down Paupack's first three batters in order.
While Guerrieri gave up two walks in the bottom of the first, good fielding on hers and her team's part kept Hazleton from getting past third.
Demko kept up the pressure in the second inning. She played the grounder for the first out and then dished out two K's to send the Lady Bucks down 1-2-3 once again.
Guerrieri then sent her first batter of the inning down looking and caught a pop-up making it two outs.
She walked the third batter but the Lady Bucks caught her stealing to end the inning.
Back-to-back ground balls played to Demko found their way to first base before their hitters did and she took out the third batter with another strikeout.
Three up, three down and the Lady Bucks were on the defense once again.
Raeann Ehrhardt combined with Caitlin Donahue for an out.
Nicki Mann then found Donahue on a grounder to take out Hazleton's second batter and Ehrhardt and Donahue repeated their previous effort to retire the side.
In the fourth inning, Emily Winkler bunted her way to first than advanced to second on a pass ball. Ehrhardt's 1-out single moved Winkler to third.
Ehrhardt then stole second but she and Winkler were left out on the bags as the next two Lady Bucks went down on fly outs.
Maria Trivilpiece singled for the Cougars. She eventually advanced to third thanks to a sacrifice but the Lady Bucks infield once again hampered Hazleton's plans.
Four innings down and still no runs by either club.
Down to the Wire
A groundout and back-to-back fly balls to center field quickly quashed the Paupack effort in the fifth inning.
Fighting back, Mann intercepted a line drive and Guerrieri chalked up her second K.
Then, Jolene Browdy singled singled for Hazleton but didn't make it further as Mann picked up a grounder and made the force out at second base.
Winkler singled on a 1-out bunt in the top of the sixth, but after a pop-up tallied a second out, she was caught trying to poach second base and down again went Paupack.
Hazleton didn't fare much better.
A lead-off single and 2-out walk gave the Cougars some runners, but Mann combined with Donahue on a ground ball and the inning ended still without any runs.
Ehrhardt led-off the seventh inning with a single and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Guerrieri. Donahue then singled to center field and drove in Ehrhardt giving the Buckhorns the first run of the game.
A single by Tori Ciszak advanced Donahue and a single by Kennedy Thomas loaded the bases.
As quickly as the anticipation grew, it then withered, as a line drive and ground out put a halt to the Bucks' little rally.
All that had to be done now was maintenance and Paupack could claim the win.
Things looked good at first. A ground out and a fly out dismissed the first two batters.
A walk put the tying run on base and an error added the winning run to the mix. Mackenzie Yori then drove in the first Hazleton run and a single by Trivilpiece sent the winning run across the plate.
"Hazleton put in a great effort," remarked Lady Bucks coach Dan Gumble.
"Our girls played hard but we just couldn't seal the deal. We had a great season, we wish our seniors the best, and we'll use what happened today as fuel for next year."