May 25—Cochranton’s debut at the District 10 Class 1A softball playoffs on Monday proved to be a bit of a gut check.
For one, pitchers on both sides found themselves needing to be almost perfect with the strike zone they were being given.
Then, there was a little issue with the mound that caused Cochranton starter Taytum Jackson, who was coming off an injury, to stumble at least once. And that injury scare came only two innings after a scary collision in left-center field forced left fielder Carly Richter to the bench with obvious facial and arm injuries.
The Cardinals withstood it all on their way to a 10-0 win over Rocky Grove in the quarterfinal round at Allegheny College.
Cochranton, the No. 4 seed, improved to 11-8 on the year and advances to face No. 1 seed and Region 2 rival Cambridge Springs in the semifinals on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined. Rocky Grove ends its season at 7-13.
“In a playoff game you always come in anxious and pepped up,” Cochranton coach Mitch Shreve said. “But when you have a performance like Taytum (Jackson) today on the mound that really puts your mind at ease and allows the batters to do what they need to do in the batter’s box, knowing that Taytum is going to be there in the circle for you, especially coming off an injury like she has been. To come in and perform like that was unbelievable.”
The Orioles had the greatest challenge with the tight strike zone to start. Kennedy Winslow walked the first four batters faced with Lexie Moore drawing hers with the bases loaded to plate the first run. Chelsey Freyermuth followed with a two-run single to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead with no outs.
The Orioles did get a pop-out and strikeout before issuing the fifth walk of the inning. Kaylin Rose then smacked a single right up the middle scoring two more for a 5-0 Cochranton lead.
That momentum took a hit with one out in the top of the second inning. The Orioles’ No. 5 hitter RaeLynn Montgomery sent a shot to the gap in left-center. Richter — in left — and Rose — in center — came charging from their respective positions in an attempt to make a play and collided.
The Cardinals managed to get Montgomery at home for the out, but Richter remained down for some time as the Cardinals’ coaching staff and trainer made a mad dash to the outfield. Rose was able to get up relatively quickly with no apparent injuries and remained in the game. Richter came off the field with her arm in a sling and a bloody nose.
“Luckily we have a really great bench,” Shreve said. “Devyn (Sokol) stepped up for us and honestly did a great job batting. She stepped into the batter’s box when we needed her to and got the job done. And it gives you something to focus on and play for.
“A player like Carly is hard to replace. She brings that leader and she’s just such a positive team player. Losing someone like that is hard. She couldn’t even leave. She had to stay and watch even when others were telling her she needed to leave.”
Richter watched her teammates tally three more runs in the third inning. Then in the sixth inning, Jaylin McGill drew her fourth walk of the game and promptly stole second base. The throw from the catcher got away and sailed into the outfield while McGill scampered home for the game-clinching run.
She also had a little different view of the gem Jackson was pitching. Jackson was hitless through 3 2/3 innings, giving up her lone hit on a come-backer off the bat of Winslow. Jackson did not walk a batter and struck out two.
“It was tight,” Jackson said of the strike zone. “As a pitcher I was raised to adapt to whatever I have to and my team played great defense behind me.”
Katelyn Ewing pitched the fifth inning for the Cardinals to complete the shutout.