WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - The Penn State Berks softball team won its second straight United East Championship title after defeating Penn State Harrisburg 9-1 in the final game of the tournament. Berks, who entered the day as the only unbeaten team, suffered a 2-0 loss to Harrisburg to force the decisive winner-take-all contest.
Harrisburg staved off elimination by beating host Penn College, 3-1, in the first game of the day, then carried that momentum into their game with Berks. Harrisburg scored twice in the top of the fourth and starting pitcher Mackenzie Sawdey threw 5.0 innings of no-hit shutout ball to earn the win.
It looked like Harrisburg was going to keep the momentum going into the final game as they loaded up the bases with just one out in the top of the first inning. Arizona Shreck got a fly out to Naomi Fay in right field, who then threw out the runner tagging up from third for the final out of the inning. Berks went down in order in the bottom of the first and Harrisburg was sent away 1-2-3 in the top of the second.
After two games on Monday and playing in their 15th straight inning of the afternoon, fatigue may have started to set in for Harrisburg in the bottom of the second. Ashley Thomas led off the inning with a single to left field. Susan Duncan reached on an error by the third baseman to put runners on the corners. Thomas scored and Duncan moved to second on a wild pitch to give Berks a 1-0 lead. Duncan moved to third on a double to left field by Lauren Ziegler. Fay scored Duncan from third with a safety squeeze that turned into a bunt single. Savannah Wilson later singled to score Ziegler from third, while Fay came around to score off a double to center by Shreck. Veronica Maryanski drove a single to left field to plate both Wilson and Shreck. Thomas recorded her second hit of the inning with a double to center field that scored Peyton Vivian, who singled earlier, to make it 7-0 in favor of Berks.
Shreck tossed the shutdown inning she needed with Harrisburg going three up, three down in the top of the third. Shreck gave Berks an 8-0 lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth. Harrisburg stayed alive by plating one run in the top of the fifth, but Berks was determined to end things with the mercy rule in the fifth. Duncan doubled to left field and moved up to third on a fly to left field by Ziegler. Fay then sent a fly to left field and Duncan scored well before the throw to home. Duncan was mobbed at home plates by her teammates and coaches.
Shreck earned the win in the pitcher's circle after allowing three hits in 3.0 shutout innings. Briana Smith surrendered four hits and one run, while striking out one in 2.0 innings of relief. Smith, who pitched in all four games of the tournament, was 2-1 with 16 strikeouts and just three runs allowed in 20.0 innings of work. For that effort, she was named the United East Softball Tournament MVP for the second straight year.
Shreck was 2-for-3 with a double, homer, two RBI, and two runs scored, while Maryanski finished 2-for-3 with two RBI. Thomas also went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI, Duncan had a double and scored twice. Fay was 1-for-2 with a stolen base, two RBI, and scored a run, Wilson went 1-for-2 with a stolen base, RBI, and run scored. Vivian and Ziegler both had a hit and scored a run.
The Nittany Lions will find out what regional tournament they will go to and who their opponent will be during the NCAA Selection show on Monday, May 15, at 1 p.m. Check back on the Berks athletics website for more information about the NCAA Tournament after information is released. The opening of regionals will take place from Thursday, May 18, through Saturday, May 20.