TJ girls win school's first WPIAL softball title
Thomas Jefferson won its first WPIAL softball championship in school history with its 5-3 win last week against Mars.
The Lady Jaguars defeated Mars in nine innings in the WPIAL Class AAA finals held at Lilley Field at California (Pa.) University.
“It's a pretty big accomplishment. I didn't realize until a day later how huge it is,” Heidi Karcher, Thomas Jefferson's head coach, said. “It's emotionally exhausting, our season. We're proud of what we did.”
“Coming off a three-win season, you don't expect to win WPIALs. To be honest, we wanted to be .500, then be one of the three teams in the section to make the playoffs. Only a select few win WPIALs. Hopefully, we'll continue winning (in the state playoffs).
Thomas Jefferson collected 11 hits against the Fightin' Planets, as the first two girls in the lineup accounted for five hits, four runs and three RBIs.
Bowers, Prickett set the table for TJ
The Lady Jaguars were sparked by sophomore shortstop Rachel Bowers and senior first baseman Kyla Prickett.
Bowers went 3 for 5 and scored three runs. Prickett had two hits in four at-bats, including a two-run homer. She ended up with three RBIs and scored one run.
Others with base hits were senior third baseman Janelle Allison, junior left fielder Lauren Herazo (one double, one RBI), freshman right fielder Lindsay Kalup, sophomore second basemen Megan Fitzgerald and Bayli Moon (one run), and senior pinch hitter Tara Conley.
The TJ girls scored two runs on three hits and two errors in the top of the ninth, as Moon singled to left center, Bowers singled to right field, and Prickett singled through the right side of the infield.
Winning pitcher Lacie Lautner, who allowed one hit in the bottom of the ninth, retired the Fightin' Planets on a fly out to left field, ground out to first base, and fly out to right field.
Lautner, a right-handed sophomore, gave up 11 hits, two earned runs and three walks while striking out five in her complete-game performance. She threw 130 pitches, including 90 for strikes.
The TJ girls left seven runners on base in the game; Mars stranded 12 runners.
TJ's loaded lineup: Allison, Herazo
Thomas Jefferson's batting order in the WPIAL championship game was constructed as follows: 1. Bowers (shortstop), 2. Prickett (first base), 3. Allison (third base), 4. Herazo (left field), 5. sophomore Emily Scheidter (designated player), 6. Kalup (right field), 7. Fitzgerald (second base), 8. senior Becca Bachman (center field), 9. Lautner (pitcher).
Amanda O'Toole, a senior, was the starter at the catcher position.
Also seeing action in the WPIAL championship game were Moon, at second base; Conley and freshman Sydney Flinn, as pinch hitters; and junior Emma Hedrick, as a pinch runner.
Jones, Papik lead Fightin' Planets
Mars was led by first baseman Kasey Jones, who went 3 for 4 with one RBI; and shortstop Suzanne Papik, with two hits in five at-bats. Papik also scored once.
The Fightin' Planets' starting pitcher, sophomore Niki Schlegel, allowed four earned runs, struck out six, walked none, and hit one batter (Kalup).
Herazo homer propels PIAA victory
Thomas Jefferson spotted District 6 champion Bellefonte a 3-0 first-inning lead before roaring back to win, 8-3, in a PIAA Class AAA first-round playoff game held Monday at Baldwin.
Herazo socked a two-run homer and Prickett knocked in a pair of runs for the WPIAL champions. Bachman, Allison and Prickett had two hits apiece.
Lautner was touched up for three unearned runs in the first inning but allowed only three hits the rest of the way.
It was Lady Jaguars' first PIAA playoff win since 2001. TJ (16-6) will take on Greensburg Salem (17-2) on Thursday.
Lady Jaguars experience turnaround
Thomas Jefferson finished 3-13 overall and 2-10 in section play in 2013 in Karcher's first year at the helm.
“I didn't reinvent the wheel,” she said. “It was a transition, but everything just kind of jelled.”
Trib Total Media contributed to this story. Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or email@example.com.