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PHOTO/ED KING Jenna Simmons fires the ball across the diamond.

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

The season came to a close for the Lady Tigers softball team at Central Columbia High School on Thursday night.

After compiling a 19-5 season, the Tunkhannock girls have nothing to hang their heads about. They will return all but one senior for next season’s roster, and are poised to return to the state championships for a third year.

Whether Bethlehem Catholic starting pitcher Tatum Kresley missed just outside with a pitch, or buried one right down the middle of the plate, Kresley never gave the appearance she was losing control.

Not when she gave up one run in the first, or the few times after that when Tunkhannock was able to get runners on base. Kresley kept the Tigers off balance, and the Bethlehem Catholic offense took advantage of its opportunities, knocking the Tigers from the state playoffs, 4-1, at Central Columbia High School.

With the win, the Golden Hawks, 20-5, will advance to Monday’s state semifinal game against Nanticoke Area at a site and time to be announced. Tunkhannock, after playing for the state championship last year, ends its season 19-5.

“They were a good team, they were aggressive on the bases and they moved the runners,” Tunkhannock coach Bob Hegedty said. “They got some timely hits which we couldn’t do. We had kids in scoring position but we just couldn’t move them across the plate.”

That wasn’t the case in the top of the first when the Tigers scored the first run of the game. Kendra Schultz singled with two out before Hailey Farr doubled to left. After the ball skipped by the left fielder, Schultz was able to score to put the Tigers in the lead.

The lead did not last for long.

The Golden Hawks came out swinging against Tunkhannock starter Hope Jones. Alyssa Jimenez doubled with one out and Natasha Miner followed with an RBI double of her own to tie the game. Alexa Pannuccio singled to score Miner to make it 2-1. And that was all the run support Kresley would need.

“She is a nice pitcher; she throws well,” Hegedty said. “I think we can handle her, there wasn’t any question of that. We just didn’t come up with plays when we needed to.”

Tunkhannock had a chance to threaten in the second when Mackayla Quick reached on a base hit to the outfield that skipped to the fence. Quick was thrown out at second attempting to stretch it to a double. After the next batter walked, Kresley got out of the inning with a pop out to third.

Bethlehem Catholic ran itself out of a potential big inning in the bottom of the second when it had two runners reach with one out. Jimenez hit a fly ball to right where Erin Dunn made a diving catch. The runner on second had rounded third and crossed the plate. Tunkhannock then threw to second for the final out of the inning.

The Tigers got the leadoff runner on in the fourth but could get nothing going. In the fifth, Dunn reached on a double with one out but was left stranded at second.

After Hope Jones pitched the first two innings, Hegedty brought on Schultz to start a clean third inning. She left two runners on in the third and retired the side in order in the fourth.

But in the fifth, the Golden Hawks were finally able to get to her when Jimenez tripled to right and later scored on a Julia Sledz single to make it 3-1.

In the bottom of the sixth, Kresley needed just three pitches and three sparkling defensive plays to retire the side in order.

Schultz was a victim of a diving stop and scoop by the Bethlehem Catholic first baseman for the first out. Farr was retired on a backhanded play up the middle by the second baseman, before Gina Walsh was thrown out after a diving stop by the third baseman.

“We came out hitting, we just thought that we had a chance early on,” Hegedty said. “When you come out and they are making diving plays, it got to be a little disheartening. You just have to battle to the end.”

Bethlehem Catholic added another insurance run in the sixth on an error to make it a three-run game heading to the top of the seventh.

The Tigers came into the season with high expectations after making it to the state final last year, despite needing to replace six players from last year’s team. This year, Hegedty needs to replace just one starter.

“I’m proud of the girls and what they accomplished this year,” Hegedty said. “Luckily for us we lose one senior. We can bounce back next year and try to get back to Penn State. We really didn’t know what to expect. We lost six really good kids and tried to replace them with young kids with not much varsity experience.”

That left Hegedty looking to put the pieces of the puzzle together in the right places to get in position to make another run.

“We just mix-and-matched and see what we could do,” the manager said. “We got better as we went through the year. I thought we did a really good job with the girls that stepped in the lineup for us.”

Bethlehem Catholic starting pitcher Tatum Kresley kept the Tigers off balance, and the Golden Hawks offense took advantage of its opportunities, knocking the Tigers from the state playoffs, 4-1, at Central Columbia High School.

Bethlehem Catholic (20-5) advances to Monday’s state semifinals against Nanticoke Area at a site and time to be announced.

“They were a good team, they were aggressive on the bases and they moved the runners,” Tunkhannock coach Bob Hegedty said. “They got some timely hits, which we couldn’t do. We had kids in scoring position, but we just couldn’t move them across the plate.”

The Tigers came into the season with high expectations after making it to state final last year, despite needing to replace six players from last year’s team.

“I’m proud of the girls and what they accomplished this year,” Hegedty said. “We really didn’t know what to expect. We lost six really good kids and tried to replace them with young kids with not much varsity experience. ... We just mix-and-matched and see what we could do. We got better as we went through the year.”

The Golden Hawks came out swinging against Tunkhannock starter Hope Jones.

“She (Kresley) is a nice pitcher, she throws well,” Hegedty said. “I think we can handle her, there wasn’t any question of that. We just didn’t come up with plays when we needed to.