Softball: Masuk eliminated again by defending champ Fitch

Masuk High senior shortstop Jenna Hall fields the ball against Fitch. — Andy Hutchison photo

A seventh-inning rally came up short and Masuk High’s softball team’s otherwise sparkling season came to an end at the hands of the defending state champion Fitch Falcons on Friday afternoon.

Fitch, the No. 11 seed in the Class L state tournament, went on the road and held of No. 3 Masuk 6-4 in quarterfinals, earning the right to face Masuk’s South-West Conference foe and 10th-seeded Joel Barlow of Redding in the semifinals.

Masuk fell behind 2-0 in the third inning, tied the score on third baseman Madison Procyk’s home run in the fourth, then fell behind 6-2 as the Falcons plated four in the top of the seventh.

The Panthers fought back in the bottom half of the last inning. Emily Lange singled with one out and Erica Pullen doubled to right-center to make it 6-3. Gretchen Bunovsky followed with a clean single to center to score a run, but Fitch pitcher Jayden Delaporta retired the last two batters to end it.

“It was a nice battle back,” Masuk coach Leigh Barone said. “We battled throughout.”

In the sixth inning, the Panthers threatened to break the 2-2 tie and take their first lead of the afternoon. Jenna Hall and Alexa Bacoulis set the table with singles, but Delaporta got the next three Panthers, despite a long at bat by Sam Schiebe, Masuk’s pitcher, who fouled off several two-strike pitches before finally being fanned.

In the top of the seventh the Falcons broke the tie then proceeded to break the open enough to advance.

Two singles and two errors led to Fitch’s first two runs. Hall, Masuk’s shortstop, made a nice running catch in foul grounds in the seventh but a couple of fielding miscues aided Fitch’s cause in the decisive inning.

Jonell Hobert singled home the go-ahead run, Taylor Wolfgang drove in another on an infield single, a hot-shot Procyk knocked down, and Delaporta helped her own cause with a key two-run double.

“I think errors really killed us today. They capitalized on every error we made,” Barone said. “Coming into this we knew Fitch was going to give us a game regardless.”

The state tourney exit doesn’t take away from Masuk’s success this spring, highlighted by an SWC championship, but Barone thought the game was in her team’s hands.

“It’s a hard loss, especially when your team is better than that. If we made the plays it would have been a better game.”

Masuk’s overall youth might have left the players with some jitters, Barone acknowledged. The lineup has only one senior, Hall, and is loaded with freshmen and sophomores.

“The future looks bright. We’ll make another run at it next year,” Barone said. “I think the experience of being in this situation will make them prepared for next year.”

Hall, who doubled before Procyk, one of those freshmen, homered, will be missed by Barone and company.

“Fun year all in all. A good bunch of girls. They pick each other up,” Barone said.

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