Line Mountain finally pushes run across in 9th inning to top Ligonier Valley in state title game

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Thursday, June 17, 2021 | 3:10 PM


UNIVERSITY PARK – To win a PIAA softball title, three things are important: strong pitching, timely hitting and solid defense.

Ligonier Valley got solid pitching again from junior Maddie Griffin, and the defense was flawless, but the Rams offense struggled to find their groove against Line Mountain senior Kya Matter and dropped the PIAA 2A title game, 1-0, in nine innings Thursday at Penn State’s Beard Field.

It was the first championship game for both teams.

Griffin struck out 17 and allowed six hits, including a game-winning walk-off double by Kaely Walshaw. Aspen Walker singled with one out in the ninth inning and courtesy runner Brooke Barwick scored on Walshaw’s gapper.

Ligonier Valley (22-3) appealed to third base, feeling Barwick missed the bag, but home plate umpire Dean Mader felt Barwick caught the corner, which allowed Line Mountain (23-3) to celebrate.

“Some of our fans thought she missed the bag,” Ligonier Valley senior first baseman Kailey Johnston said. “I stood on third base hoping I’d get another chance to bat.”

It was a prototypical pitchers’ duel. Neither Griffin nor Matter, a senior, blinked. Both had few stressful innings, but when there were baserunners, they quelled the threat.

“I expected the game to be close and it was,” Ligonier Valley coach Mark Zimmerman said. “It was going to be a classic pitchers’ duel and we came up short. Their pitcher got us chasing the ball out of the zone.”

Johnston and Jordan Hofecker had the hits for the Rams. Johnston reached second base in the seventh inning but was stranded. Matter also didn’t walk a batter while striking out 17.

“She’s the best pitcher we faced all season,” Griffin said. “She reminded me of Hempfield’s Callie Sowers.

“We’re not satisfied just getting here. I want to come back here next year and win it. We have to improve our hitting. Everything else is in place.”

Griffin also said the first season in the WPIAL went well, but not well enough.

“We wanted to win,” Griffin said. “We came up short in the WPIAL playoffs, and we came up short here. We have something to build on.”

Johnston agrees.

“Our team grew so close this season,” Johnston said. “I got to know some of these girls really well. We had a successful season, but honestly, there is no way I’d want to go out like this.

“Obviously, I wanted to win, but just looking back at the season, I became a better player and I think the other seniors can say that. Just growing as a player and understanding the game more getting here was the end goal.”

Zimmerman said the season was still great, and he wants his team to remember the good things.

“When you put a lot into it, the end comes hard,” Zimmerman said. “They were trying hard to do something that’s never been done in our school’s history. It hurts them hard. Once we get to the fall, we’ll get them back and get ready to go.”

Zimmerman said there will be new goals set for 2022.

“It’s been a fun run,” Zimmerman said. “Make no mistake about it, we’re going to set our goals to be right back here next year and if we don’t, it will be disappointing.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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