Thomas Jefferson captures 1st softball state title with walk-off win

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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | 7:35 PM


STATE COLLEGE – Taylor Karpac’s bases-loaded single in the bottom of the eighth inning gave Thomas Jefferson a 2-1 victory over Pittston Area in the PIAA Class 5A softball championship game Thursday evening at Penn State’s Beard Field.

Karpac’s hit through the left side of the infield with no outs plated Morgan Alisesky for the walk-off run.

Alisesky led off the inning with a single on an 0-2 pitch through the left side and stole second on the next pitch.

“I know my speed. I knew I can get that extra base,” Alisesky said of the aggressive play.

Alayna Grese was intentionally walked after that. The first pitch to Alison Chalovich was a wild pitch, putting Jaguars on second and third. Chalovich was intentionally walked, setting up Karpac’s heroics.

“I was obviously very nervous when they walked the batters in front of me,” Karpac said. “I hadn’t done much in my other at-bats.”

The extra-inning rally for the first state title in program history was the end of a postseason saga for Thomas Jefferson (16-8) that started as being the No. 10 seed in the WPIAL playoffs.

“Everyone underestimated us,” said winning freshman pitcher Aubrey Shaffer. “Everyone had us losing every WPIAL game. We wanted to prove them wrong.”

Shaffer did as much as anyone to prove the doubters wrong, striking out 10 in a complete-game performance, getting out of several jams along the way.

The game only got to extra innings after each team failed to convert on opportunities. The Jaguars left eight runners on base, while the Patriots (21-2) had 10 runners stranded.

“Having those girls on base, I knew I had to do something about it,” Shaffer said. “I knew I couldn’t give up a run.”

However, Thomas Jefferson also struggled to take advantage of opportunities in the middle innings, often getting leadoff runners on with no runs to show for them.

In the bottom of the second, Chalovich and Karpac opened the frame with back-to-back singles. In the fourth, Grese started things with a single. In both cases, Pittston pitcher Gianna Adams got out of trouble with three straight strikeouts.

In the fifth, though, the Jaguars had a chance to break the game open. Tied 1-1, Hannah Alonso singled and Olivia Stock walked to begin the inning. Adams struck out Adalina Bracco and got Zoe Krizan to pop out. The runners made a double steal, after which Alisesky walked to load the bases with two outs. Grese made solid contact but flew out to right field to end the rally.

Shaffer got out of a jam, too. After she retired seven batters in a row, Shaffer allowed lead-off single by Adams in the sixth. Julia Mehal got a two-out single, but Shaffer stopped the rally there with a pop up.

However, the Jaguars got out of that jam only to strand another leadoff baserunner — Chalovich, who got on via a dropped popup — in the bottom of the sixth as well.

Almost as if the teams were trying to perform Houdini acts, the Jaguars got out of a two-out, bases loaded jam in the top of the seventh, when Shaffer induced another inning-ending popup. She needed a strikeout to get out of a second and third situation in the eighth.

The Jaguars opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. Stock led off the inning with a triple that rolled to the left-center field fence. With one out, Krizan’s sacrifice fly to right field plated Stock with the first run.

The Patriots evened the score in the top of the third. With one out, Julia Long hit the ball to the left field fence for a one-out double. She moved to second and scored on Sam Herbert’s two-out single to right field that went off the glove of second baseman Alisesky. The inning ended with Pittston runners on first and third when Shaffer induced a popup.

Alisesky’s misplay was still on her mind when she led off the eighth.

“In the second inning, I had an easy line drive that hit my glove and I missed it,” Alisesky said. “I had to pick up my team.”

Adams, who will be pitching for Carnegie Mellon next year, finished with 14 strikeouts.

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