Ally Horvath spent the first 91/2 innings Thursday in Central Bucks South's crowded dugout before she suddenly found herself in a pressure-filled, yet familiar position.
With her softball team tied with Hatboro-Horsham, 2-2, in the bottom of the 10th inning of their PIAA District 1 Class AAAA championship game, coach Jen Robinson appointed the freshman reserve outfielder to start the inning as the team's runner on second base, per the rules of the international tiebreaker.
"I was just cheering on my teammates during the game and keeping myself fresh," said Horvath, who scored the winning run in the Titans' 3-2, 10-inning victory. "I had an idea it would come to this, so I was ready."
After Horvath moved to third on a sacrifice, leadoff hitter Shana Steigerwalt came to the plate hitless in her previous three at-bats. Despite her lack of success, the senior cocaptain said her confidence remained high.
She dropped a bunt on the first pitch she saw from Hatboro-Horsham's Maggie Shaffer and placed it just in front of the pitching mound.
Shaffer looked toward Horvath at third - Horvath appeared to be staying put - and then threw Steigerwalt out at first.
As soon as Shaffer moved toward first base, Horvath sprinted for the plate, sliding in safely for the winning run and giving Central Bucks South its first District 1 championship in the six-year history of the school's program.
"We beat Hatboro earlier in the season, 1-0," Robinson said, "and it was the same thing - Horvath scored on a bunt by Shana."
Central Bucks South pitcher Fran Carrullo lasted all 10 innings, striking out nine, and gave up two unearned runs in the sixth inning. Besides the 90-degree heat, the righthanded junior also had to work around a hole that had begun to form midway through the game in front of the mound.
"It was right where she placed her foot down on her follow-through, so we just had to pour water on it before each inning," Robinson said.
The only reason Carrullo would have been removed from the game would have been if the heat had been too overwhelming, said Robinson, who asked her pitcher each inning if she was OK as the game entered the later stages.
"I just said 'yes' and turned away," said Carrullo, who had thrown two consecutive shutouts entering the district final. "I was so focused."
With two outs in the sixth inning, Hatboro-Horsham's Kelsey Koelzer hit a ground ball that got past the second baseman, allowing two runs to score and breaking a scoreless tie.
Carrullo throws five different pitches, with her fastball clocked at 63 m.p.h., and her go-to breaking pitch is her change-up.
In the bottom of second, Carrullo struck out her fourth batter to end the inning. She fooling the hitter with a changeup that appeared to make the batter's knees buckle as it passed by.
"That's the best feeling in the world for me," Carrullo said. "I love making batters work out there."
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