Opportunity Knocks, Tunkhannock Answers
TUNKHANNOCK —Two softball teams with district title aspirations scratched out only three hits against each other.
Tunkhannock made the most of its opportunities, scoring each inning it had a baserunner. Whether it was Hope Jones or Kendra Schultz in the circle, the Tigers never let Pittston Area do the same.
Jones and Schultz escaped a couple jams, and Tunkhannock moved around the bases any way it could Friday in a 5-0 home victory over Pittston Area.
The Tigers (11-4) continued to roll with their ninth consecutive win, which put them second in the District 2 Class 4A power ratings behind Scranton Prep (11-3). They’ve shut out four opponents during this stretch and allowed just one run in their last four games.
“They’re playing unselfish. They’re playing hard, and they’re just playing great as a team right now,” Tigers manager Bob Hegedty said.
Jena Simmons was key for Tunkhannock’s bats with three RBIs, including a two-run home run.
Jones got the win with four strikeouts against two walks and two hits in four innings. Schultz was even more efficient once she found her rhythm, striking out six and allowing just one hit over the final three frames.
“We’re just playing loose. I think we play our worst when we play tight and we’re stressed and worried out there,” Schultz said. “As leaders, we just want to have fun and end on a good note.”
Pittston Area (13-2) seemed as good a bet as any to slow down Tunkhannock among its final opponents. All the breaks simply seemed to go against the Patriots from the first inning.
Jones let Pittston Area load the bases to start the game, but she served up a fly ball to center to get out of trouble. Plenty more Patriots were stranded on the basepaths over the next few innings — eight total, including five in scoring position.
In the third inning, Madisyn Antal’s single to right should have put two Patriots on base, but right fielder Erin Dunn didn’t give up on the play and fired to second base for a force out.
Schultz took over pitching in the fifth inning and let two Patriots move into scoring position with a wild pitch. She said she just had to take a deep breath and forget about them with two outs; she painted the corner for a huge called third strike.
Schultz didn’t give Pittston Area any hope from there, starting the sixth with a diving catch of a bunt and striking out four of the last five batters she faced.
Tunkhannock wasn’t as forgiving at the plate.
Patriots pitcher Alexa McHugh put away Tunkhannock’s first eight batters, except Nicole Howell, who was hit by pitch. That was enough for the Tigers, as Howell moved to second with a steal, third on a bunt and home on No. 9 hitter Dunn’s single to right field, Tunkhannock’s first hit of the day.
“(Dunn is) like a second lead-off,” Hegedty said. “Her on-base percentage is just crazy, and that’s why we have her there.”
“She’s always picking us up,” Schultz said. “It’s so important when you get the bottom of the lineup for that other team to know they don’t have it easy.”
Schultz was the next Tiger to reach base, on an infield error that the Patriots also paid for when Simmons launched her homer to left-center in the fourth inning.
Mistakes like those were never wasted by Tunkhannock, which scored two more times in the sixth.
Jones ran from first to third on a wild pitch and made it 4-0 when Simmons dropped down a bunt. Schultz tacked on the other insurance run by tagging up — from second base — when Hailey Farr’s foul-ball fly didn’t get in from right field fast enough.
Tunkhannock can keep it up for 10 in a row today at home against Wallenpaupack, another tough matchup. The Buckhorns played close with Pittston Area in a 2-1 loss last month.
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