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NTL SOFTBALL: HUGO, NORTON HAVE KEY 7TH INNING HITS IN WYALUSING'S WALK-OFF WIN OVER WELLSBORO (2022-05-10)

BY CHRIS MANNING
Northern Tier Sports Report
WYALUSING — With how crazy this NTL softball season has been it was only fitting that the game to decide the Division-I champion would match it. Down 9-0 at one point, Wyalusing rallied to win 10-9 in a walk-off over Wellsboro to secure the league title on Monday.

Coming in Wyalusing needed either a NP-Liberty loss to Athens, or a win over Wellsboro to claim the championship, and they did it themselves. They have the edge on the Mounties with a 1-game lead in the division, as they have just two losses - NPL and Athens - while NP-Liberty has three - Wyalusing, Athens, and Towanda.


“It was a good, stressful team win,” said Wyalusing coach John Loomis, as he celebrates his eighth league title in 21 years of coaching. “An elite championship, which I really didn’t expect that. I’m really proud of this group, they’ve worked hard, they put in the extra time. They were just hoping for a winning record to start the season - we were just hoping to qualify for districts - and they’ve won a lot of close games. To their credit, they’ve been gritty, and it’s been fun, it’s been a fun year.”


It was senior Laci Norton with the game winning hit, driving in fellow senior Dakota Hugo, who had the game tying hit that brought in Ashlyn Neiley - all with two outs.


“I was looking for right down the middle and she gave it to me,” said Norton. “I had a feeling, going into the last inning, that there was going to be some sort of walk-off, and it’s just crazy.”


Neiley had a strong day at the plate, going 4-for-4 with a run scored, and 3-RBI, while nine different Wyalusing batters recorded hits.


“I could see the kid was ready to play tonight,” said Loomis. “You know, in the batting cage, she was hitting everything on the button, so we gave her a shot, and it worked out.”


Sydney Friedlander (1-for-4), and Hugo (1-for-4) both had doubles with a run scored, while Hugo also drove in a run.


Norton (1-for-4) had an RBI with a run scored, while Jenelle Johns (1-for-3) scored twice, and knocked one run in.


London Edwards (1-for-3) had an RBI, as Kylie Pickett (1-for-2) had 2-RBI with two runs scored. Allie Liddick (1-for-4) scored a run, and drove in two, while Rachel Wilson also had a hit.


Edwards started, and went 1 2/3-innings to allow six hits, one walk, two hit batsmen, and six runs.


Johns finished out the final 5 1/3-innings to get the win, striking out 10 with two walks, three hits, and three runs.


“Jenelle Johns came in in relief of London, and did a great job,” said Loomis.


Lexi Urena (3-for-4) had two home runs, and 6-RBI to lead the Hornets, hitting homers in the first and second inning to help them build their lead.


Maddi Bordas (3-for-4) added a double with 2-RBI, and a run scored.


Wyalusing’s first run came in the bottom of the fourth, as Pickett drew a 2-out walk, then Liddick reached on a called third strike that got away from the catcher.


That set the stage for Neiley, who singled in Pickett to get the Rams on the scoreboard.


The big Ram inning came in the bottom of the third as Friedlander led off with a double, followed by Hugo drawing a walk.


That’s when Wellsboro starter, Rylee Boyce, was pulled in favor of Lexi Urena. Urena, though, walked the next two batters allowing Friedlander to score to make it 9-2.


An Edwards sacrifice fly brought in Hugo, followed by a Pickett walk.


Liddick then broke the game open with a 2-run hit, scoring Norton and Johns, cutting it to 9-5.


Boyce came back into the circle, and Neiley welcomed her with a hit that scored Pickett. The final run of the inning came as Wilson drove in Liddick on a ground out.


In the sixth Wyalusing would rally with two outs, as Johns hit a single, followed by Edwards reaching on an error. Pickett then hit in Johns to make it 9-8.


In the top of the seventh Wellsboro would get the first batter on, and she would steal second with no outs, but the Rams stranded her there with a strikeout, and two ground outs.


In the bottom half Neiley led off with a hit, but Wellsboro got back to back outs, threatening to strand Neiley on second base.


Then, on an 0-1 count Hugo nearly ended the game with a long drive to left field that hit the wall, bringing in Neiley.


With the momentum behind them Norton took a 1-0 pitch, and drove it to left-center field to score Hugo, and win the game.


“Hugo, who kind of struggled earlier on in the game, I asked her with she wanted to stick it last time, and she looked at me, and said, ‘yes,’” said Loomis. “So I told her to be aggressive, and she hit it on the button. And, then, you know Norton, if any one kid wanted this game, it was Laci Norton. She’s had the team fired up, she’s been a tremendous leader.”


Wyalusing isn’t done yet, as they travel to NTL Division-II champion NEB on Tuesday, but, right now, they’re going to enjoy this one.


The Rams won the league title a year ago, but that was a senior heavy team, so much of this year’s team were role players last year, or are completely new, and they did it their way.


“The support and effort that this team has put in is nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said Norton. “Every single one of these girls deserve that.”


PHOTO CAPTION: Wyalusing’s players celebrate their walk-off win over Wellsboro…PHOTOS BY CHRIS MANNING



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