May 26—Region 5 had been a bit of a crapshoot all season long with the top four spots in the region undecided until the final week of the regular season. Would only make sense that a District 10 Class 4A quarterfinal matchup between two of those squads would go down to the wire as well.
Lorelei Hiltabidel hit a grounder with no outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning to score Jordan Popowski and lead Fort LeBoeuf to a 7-6 win over Conneaut on Tuesday at Allegheny College.
The Lady Eagles end their season at 11-8. The Bison improve to 14-5 on the year and advance to face either Villa Maria or Grove City in the semifinals on Thursday at a site and time to be determined.
“It’s been a fight all season,” Conneaut coach Jason Onderko said. “It’s a dog fight. We didn’t expect anything less going into this game and we were ready for it. We were ready to fight.”
The Bison had the Eagles’ number heading into the quarterfinal tilt having swept a doubleheader against Conneaut by a combined score of 18-10 back on May 12. That twinbill happened just before Conneaut was forced into a shutdown due to COVID. The Eagles bounced back after the shutdown with a win over Region 5 champion Villa Maria before splitting a two-day doubleheader against Warren.
“This last week of going against Villa and Warren and then McDowell the week before … We played Fort LeBoeuf tough before our shutdown,” Onderko said. “They just got a few extra base hits over top of us.”
Needless to say, the Eagles were playing with a little spunk going into their matchup against the Bison and showed that early against the Bison, plating three runs in the second inning. Linda Shepard hit into an error and scored on a double by Brooke Wise. Wise then scored on a groundout by Jaidyn Jordan and Eliza Harrington, who reached on an error, came around to score on a wild pitch to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead.
Fort LeBoeuf did respond with a run in the bottom half of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Alanna Skinner to make it a 3-1 game. That is where the score remained until the bottom of the fourth.
The Eagles left runner at first and third in the third inning and first and second in the fourth inning before the Bison did some damage.
Kendall Stull led off the fourth inning for the Bison with a single. Amanda Bentley then followed with a shot over the fence just inside the foul pole in left to tie the game at 3-3. Fort LeBoeuf added another run in the fifth on a second sacrifice fly by Skinner to take the lead. But the Eagles were far from done.
Wise, who hit three homers in three straight at-bats against Fort LeBoeuf in the regular season doubleheader, led off the sixth inning for Conneaut with a triple. Emma Stevenson drove her home with a grounder to tie the game at 4-4. Conneaut retook the lead in the top of the seventh after an RBI triple by Kaley Cook and RBI single by Shepard.
It wasn’t the end of the tale, however.
Conneaut did get some big outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, but not before the Bison scored two runs to send the game into extra innings.
The Eagles were retired in order in the eighth. Popowski and Stull hit back-to-back singles to start the bottom half of the inning for Fort LeBoeuf. The Eagles eventually opted to intentionally walk Bentley and set up the force at home. Hiltabidel did exactly what CASH planned for and hit a grounder. The throw to home wasn’t in time, though, and the Bison got the win.
“I’m proud of the way this team has played this year and how hard they fought,” Onderko said.
Wise and Cook both finished with two hits for the Eagles.