Jun. 11—MILESBURG — Two years removed from winning the PIAA Class A softball state championship, and one year removed from losing an entire season to the COVID-19 high school sports shutdown, Williams Valley marches on.
Moving up to Class AA this year, the Vikings, on the strength of a 7-2 victory over Mount Union on Thursday afternoon at the Milesburg Little League Complex, moved within one victory of a return trip to State College and an opportunity for another state crown.
Up next for Williams Valley (21-4) is a Monday semifinal matchup with District 4 champion Line Mountain, a 4-0 winner over Brandywine Heights in eight innings in a quarterfinal played at Pine Grove.
The opportunity for another state title is a driving force for Williams Valley.
"As a senior and along with all the other seniors, this is so important to us," winning pitcher Emma Crisswell said minutes after teammate Mackenzie Carl caught a pop fly from Kaitlin Arnold for the game's final out. "It means everything to us, getting out to play, and we have a postseason."
Crisswell played a huge role in the Williams Valley victory, not only hurling seven strong innings in the circle, but also stroking a pair of singles, knocking in two runs and scoring twice. The other half of the Vikings' battery, catcher Alex Bogle, also had a big game at the plate, belting a double and single, knocking in a run and scoring twice.
Williams Valley lost the pregame coin toss, making it the visiting team. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the Vikes took control early, taking advantage of five walks and some timely hitting to put up two runs in the first frame and four more in the second.
"That was big," Williams Valley coach Ryan Underkoffler said. "We always talk about jumping on them right away. Fortunately we were the visitors today, and we were able to get those key runs early.
"They're (Mount Union) a good hitting team and we knew that coming in," Underkoffler added. "So, to have that opportunity early in the game, top of the first inning to get those runs and then continue on into the second inning was huge. That's part of our game plan."
Mount Union starter Karrigan Woodward settled down after that rough start, allowing just a single run the rest of the way. That came in the top of the fifth when the Vikings' Gracie Ruch laced a single to left field, plating Tori Rabuck, who reached on a walk and moved up on Jade Groff's single.
In the circle, Crisswell didn't allow a hit until Gracie Kramer's bunt single in the bottom of the third and didn't give up a run until Arnold's double to left-center plated Morgan Brumbaugh, who led off the bottom of the fourth with a double. An inning prior, with one out and a runner on first, Vikings' left fielder Ruch's diving catch of a Peyton Crisswell drive prevented a potential scoring opportunity for Mount Union.
"We had the runs we needed early and we played defense after that," Underkoffler said. "Coming in against a good hitting team, we knew we were going to have to play defense behind Emma.
"Gracie made a highlight play, we made some nice plays on ground balls getting lead runners, we played a very sound game."
Mount Union (19-4) scored its only other run in the sixth when Arnold singled up the middle to open the inning, moved to third on a double by Peyton Crisswell and scored on a fielder's choice by Kendra Gardner.
For the game, Emma Crisswell gave up the two runs on seven hits and three walks. She fanned seven and was backed by an error-free performance from her defense.
"As long as I have my team behind me, even if I have my off days, I'm gonna be OK and my defense is going to back me up," Emma Crisswell said. "Honestly, toward the middle of the game and then toward the end of the game I had my defense to back me up.
"I really count on them."
Woodward worked a complete game for the Trojans, allowing nine hits and issuing nine free passes. Of those walks, two came with the bases loaded, forcing runs across the plate.
The Vikings have now outscored their five postseason opponents by a combined 62-2 score.
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