At some point Monday afternoon, the Central Bucks South softball team began playing for more than just a spot in the state final.
Pitcher Haileigh Stocks was throwing a no-hitter.
For third baseman Morgan Decker, that point came during the third inning of the Titans' 7-0 win over Pennsbury (22-5).
Once Stocks retired the first nine batters she faced, "It's no longer you're doing it for the win," Decker said. "You're also doing it for a teammate."
By the end of the PIAA Class AAAA semifinal, Decker's uniform was covered with dirt. She had preserved her fellow senior's first high school no-hitter with two spectacular plays.
In the fifth inning, Decker went for a grounder, balanced on her knees, and threw out the Falcons' No. 7 hitter, Farryl Groder, by a step. In the sixth, No. 9 hitter Taylor Boltersdorf sliced a foul several feet to the right of the third-base bag. Again, Decker ranged over and dove to make the catch.
"That energizes you," Decker said of the no-hitter. "Everyone knew. Everyone realized. Just nobody wanted to say anything."
From the bench, coach Dan Hayes sensed "something special" could happen beginning in the third inning, too. He had seen Stocks dominate all season long, so a no-hitter was a possibility.
On this day, Hayes watched batter after batter step to the plate and hit nothing more than a jam-shot fly ball or grounder off the end of the bat.
"Every pitch was a good pitch," he said.
The only Titans player whose adrenaline didn't skyrocket, it seemed, was Stocks herself. She simply focused on her wind-up and the catcher's mitt.
Last year, after reaching the state final and state semifinals the two previous years, C.B. South's season of high expectations ended in the district quarterfinals.
"It was just bitter," Stocks said. "We don't really want to feel that way again."
On Monday, Stocks said she wasn't worried about giving up hits, only about getting the win.
The Titans (21-4), who are led by eight seniors, scored three runs in the first inning, including two on a double by catcher Lauren Klepchick. Stocks added two in the second with a long home run to center field.
On the mound, a four-pitch walk to No. 3 hitter Christina Bascara was the only mistake she made all afternoon. Stocks, a Robert Morris recruit, threw 77 total pitches, 50 for strikes, and never more than 17 in one inning. She struck out four batters, but none after the fourth.
Asked whether she had thrown a no-hitter before, Stocks said: "I think I have. I know I threw a perfect game when I was, like, 10. I don't really keep track of it."
When Pennsbury's Suzanne Swanicke flied out to center for the final out, Stocks walked off the mound smiling and slapped hands with Hayes, who met her in front of the first-base dugout.
The unassuming righthander had just thrown a no-hitter in a state semifinal - against last year's state runner-up, no less - but all she received afterward were a few pats on the back from her teammates and a couple of hugs from her grandparents.
As the umpires exited through the right-field gate, one turned to the other two: "She pitched a no-hitter?" he asked.
Pennsbury 000 000 0 - 0 0 1
Central Bucks So. 320 101 x - 7 8 0
WP: Haileigh Stocks. LP: Val Buehler. 2B: CB–Morgan Decker, Lauren Klepchick. HR: CB–Haileigh Stocks.