If the Central Bucks South softball team could trade an error for a hit, the Titans might be preparing for Friday's PIAA state championship game.
Unfortunately, though, without the swap, the Titans must deal with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Shaler, the District 7 runner-up, in a Class AAAA state semifinal yesterday at Shippensburg University's Robb Field.
"At the beginning of the season, I made a calendar for all the girls," Central Bucks South coach Jennifer Robinson said. "I put where district playoffs started, and I put where state playoffs started. One of my parents said, 'A little ambitious, huh, coach?' And I said 'No, we're going to do it.' "
Central Bucks South, the District 1 runner-up, reached the semifinals by defeating Central, 10-0, in four innings on June 1 and Governor Mifflin, 1-0, in a quarterfinal Thursday.
Yesterday, a rare defensive mistake opened the door for Shaler to score two runs in the fourth inning. But Central Bucks South still came within just one hit of a dramatic come-from-behind win.
Titans second baseman Molly Hare, one of three seniors, led off the bottom of the seventh inning with her team's first hit of the day - a first-pitch single to left – and freshman designated player Haileigh Stocks sailed an RBI double to center to narrow the gap to 2-1 with nobody out.
Third baseman Morgan Decker reached on an error, and Central Bucks South needed only one hit to complete the rally. But the Titans could not capitalize.
Pitcher Abby Nichter recorded three straight outs, stranding the tying and winning runs on second and third base.
"No one thought we were going to go this far," Stocks said. "But we just continued to pull out win after win."
Titans ace Devon Utterback pitched the first four innings - she struck out six batters in the first three - and combined with reliever Francesca Carullo to surrender just one hit over the full seven.
But in the fourth inning, the normally stout Central Bucks South defense broke down.
Shaler catcher Lauren Hackett singled to right-center with one out, but the hit did not lead to either of the inning's two runs. Instead, baserunners Candace Tabroski and Brittney DeFazio scored on mistakes.
"Our defense is our strongest point, but we didn't come up with our perfect defense that we've shown throughout the whole season," Hare said.
Tabroski scored from second to make it 1-0 when a routine pop-up to shallow center fell between the infielders and outfielders.
Then, DeFazio - who had been hit by a pitch - scored from third when an Utterback wild pitch rolled to the backstop.
Neither team mounted any other threat until Central Bucks South's seventh-inning surge, which provided a glimpse of what got the team so far.
Said Robinson: "We could have just thrown in the towel and said, 'We lost. We made these errors.' But instead we went out and put up a fight. I'm really proud of that effort."
Shaler 000 200 0 - 2 1 3
Central Bucks South 000 000 1 - 1 2 2
WP: Abby Nichter. LP: Devon Utterback.