CALIFORNIA – Losing in the playoffs is never easy, but it’s worse when mistakes help decide the game.
For McGuffey, Monday’s 2-0 loss to Deer Lakes in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals at California University’s Lilley Field might hurt for a while.
The sixth inning proved pivotal, as the Highlanders failed to capitalize on an opportunity to break a scoreless tie and the Lancers pounced for the game’s only two runs in the bottom half of the inning.
“It’s never easy to lose when there are errors involved,” said McGuffey coach Bill Loar. “Those are hard to digest. If you get beat straight up, you get beat.”
McGuffey, held to only two hits in the first five innings, had courtesy runner Kenzie Ranko on second base with two outs. Meghan Shultz singled sharply to right-center field, where center fielder Maureen Hutchinson made a quick play to cut the ball off.
As a result, Ranko was unable to score. Worse, she took too big a turn around third base and was picked off for the final out of the inning.
“I saw the throw and I saw the cutoff, and I knew if (Ranko) kept going, she was dead. And I think she put the brakes on a little bit too late, and by that point, it was too hard to get back into third base,” said Loar.
It didn’t take long for second-seeded Deer Lakes (17-0), which also ousted McGuffey from the playoffs last season, to capitalize.
Katie Gozzard led off the inning with a double then moved to third when center fielder Mara McBride appeared to lose Sierra Sarver’s fly ball in the sun. Gozzard scored on Tiffany Edwards’ flyout to left, then the Lancers loaded the bases on a walk and bunt single.
Stephanie Drapela’s grounder to third was mishandled, allowing the second run to score.
“They got the opportune hit, and we threw an error in with it,” Loar said. “Good things never happen when that situation happens. If you have a situation with just one run, that’s manageable, but that second run hurt us.”
McGuffey had one last chance to crack Edwards, who finished with nine strikeouts and allowed just five hits. Carae Wagner and Moriah McGuier led off the seventh inning with singles. Edwards struck out the next two batters, then Sammie Weiss’ sharp line drive was hit straight at right fielder Rachel Tanilli for the game’s final out.
“It’s a shame Sammie’s ball was right at (Tanilli,)” said Loar. “If that was in the gap, we could’ve gotten one or even two runs.”
McGuffey’s season ends with a 14-4 record.
“We have to try to build on this for next year,” said Loar. “We lose Cassie Weiss and Marlie Mounts, and those are two hard kids to replace in the lineup. Hopefully, the younger players will get their opportunities and build on it.”