Jun. 8—PETERS TOWNSHIP — 2021 was a season of firsts for the Shade softball team.
The Panthers competed in their first District 5 championship game and earned a berth in the PIAA state playoffs for the first time in program history.
However the historic season ended in the first round of the PIAA Class A playoffs when Shade fell by one run, 5-4, to five-time defending WPIAL champions and the 2017 and 2018 state title winners West Greene, on Monday afternoon at Peterswood Park.
“Just the way the season worked out after missing last year, we would have been strong last year but nobody got a chance to play,” Shade head coach Jason Baer said. “First time we were ever here, I hate to see it end like this.”
It ended for the Panthers with the bases loaded and two with one run having scored in the top of the seventh inning when junior catcher Cassidy Mauger popped up to second base for the final out.
Mauger was heavily involved in the second inning, both on offense and defense.
Her solo home run in the second inning gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
However in the bottom of the second, with the bases loaded with Pioneers and one out, Lexi Six hit a ground ball to Panthers first baseman Jenna Muha, who fired a strike to home plate for a force out, however when Mauger tried to throw back to first base for an inning ending double play, the throw ended up in the right field corner and three West Greene runners scored.
“In that situation, honestly, it’s probably better if you don’t throw it,” Coach Baer said. “But you can’t fault her for trying to make a play.”
Shade was quick to tie the game in the third inning when senior Taylor Rapsky singled, Emily Rapsky reached on an error, putting Panthers at second and third with nobody out.
Back-to-back run producing ground outs by McKenzie Baer and Mauger tied the game, 3-3.
The scored remained tied until the bottom of the fifth inning when a Baer inside pitch hit something and trickled toward first base. After a conference between umpires, they ruled the ball hit Jersey Wise and that she was not swinging, thus it was a hit batter and Wise was awarded first.
“I heard it hit the bat and then I see her in the act of swinging,” Baer said. “He said it hit the bat, then it hit her, and I said if it hits her hands, it’s a strike. He said she wasn’t swinging. What are you going to do?”
The call was a big one. Two batters later, West Greene pitcher Kiley Meek drove a pitch over the center field fence for a two-run homer that put the Pioneers up for good.
Two infield singles and a pair of walks produced Shade’s fourth run in the seventh, but they could not bring home the tying run.
Panthers senior McKenzie Baer was sparkling in the circle, holding a West Greene team that averaged nearly 11 runs a game in three district playoff wins to only two earned runs on four hits.
“She kept us off balance,” West Greene head coach Billy Simms said. “She was in on our fists, and we don’t see a lot of kids that come inside.”
The memorable run for Shade ends for the first time in the state playoffs with a final record of 17-6.
“I told the younger girls that I hope they learned from the two seniors in watching them play because they are great ballplayers,” Baer said