Bermudian Springs’ softball coach Ed Kennell never doubted his team.
Not when it lost six of its last seven regular season games, and not when it trailed top-seeded Trinity 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning of Tuesday’s District 3-3A semifinal at Wass Park in Mechanicsburg.
For his faith, Kennell was justly rewarded.
The Eagles scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the ballgame before winning it in extra innings on a bloop single by shortstop Maya Kemper.
“As of late, I’ve said the one thing I don’t want to do is coach quitters,” Kennell said after the victory. “I want you to give all you have from the first out to the last out, it doesn’t matter what the score is.”
Bermudian (12-10) entered the game on the back of an impressive 10-1 victory over fourth-seeded Lancaster Catholic in the first round, while the Shamrocks (15-3) were similarly dominant in their 11-2 win over eighth-seeded Boiling Springs.
After a quiet top half of the first, Bermudian Springs’ starter Tori Murren found herself in a bit of deep water in the bottom half before stranding runners on first and second. From that point on, Murren and Shamrocks’ ace Maddie Smith traded blows.
Smith struck out a pair of Eagles in the top of the second on the way to a 1-2-3 inning, while Murren induced a double play to retire the side in order in the bottom.
Murren did the same in the third and in the top half of the fourth, it appeared that Berm would open the scoring.
Maddie Reever walked to begin the inning before advancing to second on a stolen base. Reever then found her way over to third on a single by Gabby Kaltreider and appeared to score on a fielder’s choice by Hannah Metzger, but was called out by the home plate umpire, a call Kennell expressed his displeasure with.
“I thought she got her foot in there, but sometimes those things aren’t going to go your way,” he said.
Smith then got out of the jam with a strikeout of Kemper.
Meanwhile, Murren kept rolling in the bottom half of the fourth, setting the ‘Rocks down in order yet again.
“Once I saw our fielding kind of come together and we got the first out I knew we’d get the second and after the second we’d get the third,” Murren said of whether she felt like she hit a groove in the circle.
In the fifth, Lindsay Haser came on in relief of a tiring Smith and recorded a 1-2-3 inning of her own, but Murren had a response yet again, striking out the side in the bottom half of the fifth.
“She was wonderful tonight,” Kennell said of Murren. “She’s been our workhorse and she’s been trying to tackle some of our tougher games. Tonight, she came on strong there at the end.”
The sixth inning saw the underdog Eagles strike first. Reever started the inning with a single before moving to second on an Ashlyn Smith sacrifice bunt. A Kaltreider groundout moved her to third and then, with two down, freshman Hannah Metzger beat out a ground ball to the Trinity shortstop for an infield single and the go-ahead RBI.
“She was with JV and only came along with us late,” Kennell said of Metzger. “She did wonderfully. When she hit that ball I thought the shortstop was playing just a little bit deep and we had that runner at third. I thought she was going to beat it out and, I’ll be danged, she did.”
Berm was unable, however, to add any insurance runs and in the bottom of the sixth it came back to bite the visitors.
After a leadoff single by Molly Maney, a bunt single and an error, Molly Whtimyer drilled a go-ahead, two-run single to give the Shamrocks the lead before Smith added another with an RBI single to make it 3-1 and put the Eagles on the verge of a playoff exit.
But as he said, Kennell’s team has no quitters.
“We knew we just needed to work as a team and stick with the fundamentals,” Murren said when asked what was said in the dugout between innings.
Kemper started the seventh with a groundout to Haser in the circle, but then Berm began to get going. Maddie Stephens laced an infield single to the left side before Hannah Chenault and Murren worked walks to load the bases for Reever with one down.
Reever knocked in Stephens with a fielder’s choice that left runners on first and third for Smith with two down, and Smith promptly delivered. The Eagles’ left fielder lined an 0-1 pitch into center, scoring Chenault and tying the game.
While they were unable to take the lead thereafter, Murren continued the momentum in the bottom half of the seventh, setting the Shamrocks down in order and sending the game into extra innings.
“I was worrying about how much was left in the tank, but her heart really shined through,” Kennell said of his pitcher.
Smith returned to the mound in the eighth for Trinity, but it was evident she lacked the energy shown in the early innings. Metzger worked a five-pitch walk to start the frame before Briella Riley bunted her into scoring position. That brought Kemper to the plate.
After taking three straight balls to start the at-bat, Kemper swung through a fastball on the fourth pitch. On the next pitch, however, she connected, singling to right field, scoring Metzger, and sending her bench into a frenzy.
“It was really just ‘make contact,’” Kemper said of her thought process before the at-bat. “Because I knew the game was on the line and we’ve all worked so hard to get here and I didn’t want the let my teammates down.”
The Eagles held that 4-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth, where Murren went to work. She collected the first out on a bunt by Allie Aschenbreener before getting Haser to fly out for the second. After a Molly Whitmyer single and a wild pitch, Smith stepped up to the plate with the tying run on second.
Murren wasn’t fazed.
On a 2-0 count, she forced Smith to roll over weakly to the Kaltreider at second base who delivered a clean throw to Reever at first to end the game and send Berm to its first district title game in program history and lock up a state tournament bid.
“In years past, I’ve made districts seven or eight times and lost every one of them,” Kennell said after the game. “But with this group, I felt we were playing our best at the right time. I told them for the past 2-3 weeks, it doesn’t matter who’s playing well at the beginning of the season, it’s who’s playing the best at the end of the season and right now they’re showing it.”
The Eagles will face third-seeded Pequea Valley, who topped Kutztown 2-0, in Thursday’s final at a site and time to be announced.
Clay Sauertieg can be reached at email@example.com
Bermudian Springs 000 001 21 — 4 7 2
Trinity 000 003 00 — 3 5 0
Tori Murren and Maddie Stephens; Smith, Haser (5), Smith (8) and Whitmyer. WP: Murren. LP: Smith. SO-BB: BS-Murren 5-1; T-Smith 7-4, Haser 3-2.