By Mike Longo Jr.
The last time the Montour Spartans placed a team in the PIAA State Championship game was in 2001 as they suffered a thrilling 1-0 loss to Pennsburg.
Fast forward to this year and for the second time in the school's history the Lady Spartans reached the title game.
Unfortunately, the result was as painful and heart breaking as 22 years ago. Montour missed its shot at a State Title dropping a hard fought 3-2 contest to Blue Mountain, settling for 2nd place once again.
All throughout their tremendous run this season these ladies have battled and overcome the odds. Prior to the championship matchup against the Eagles, Montour bounced three teams from the tournament.
They defeated Bellefonte 5-2 in the opening round, then beat Archbishop Wood 5-0 before stopping WPIAL powerhouse, Elizabeth Forward 4-1 in the Semi Finals.
They were facing Marla Freiwald, the Eagles hard throwing pitcher who hadn't allowed a run in three previous games. However, Montour had a veteran pitcher in Kaitlin Molitoris who can hold her own on the mound with anyone. Freiwald's scoreless game streak was snapped at 21 innings in this game by the Spartans.
Living up to the pregame hype, this contest had the fans on the edge of their seats for the first four innings as neither team could mount an offensive attack which saw all zeros on the scoreboard.
Montour's bats came alive in the fifth inning by plating a pair of runs and taking a 2-0 lead.
Their best chance at blowing the game open never materialized as they had the bases loaded but failed to capitalize with only one out. A fly ball to short left field couldn't get the runner from third home. Their chance ended with a strikeout for the final out and the Eagles only trailing by two runs.
With defeat on the horizon, Blue Mountain snapped out of their funk with two outs in the sixth inning which spelled doom for Montour.
A scant four outs was all that stood between Montour and the school's first PIAA Softball title.
Needing only one more out to finish off the home half of the sixth, the wheels came off of the Spartans wagon.
Blue Mountain sent a runner to first compliments of a two out walk from Molitoris. The Eagles pounded out three straight singles to knot the contest at 2-2. However, after the 3rd single, the Montour throw from the outfield to the plate to stop the potential go-ahead run got away from catcher Danielle Terpack. She was charged with an error and the Eagles runner raced home from third base and a 3-2 lead.
Montour had one last shot in the seventh inning but failed to score thus ending their season and title hopes.
Spartans Head Coach Ken Kutchman said,"It was sort of an avalanche in the sixth inning."
Pitcher Kaitlin Molitoris added, "One thing led to another."
Kutchman also said, "We graduate three seniors, we have big shoes to fill." One pair of those shoes belong to Molitoris.
Four Spartans accounted for all six of the team's hits. Molitoris slammed a double, Danielle Terpack blasted a triple while Hailey Staub and Shania Cope each added a pair of singles.
The pitching line on Molitoris was six innings, giving up three runs on four hits. She walked seven batters while her team committed two errors with seven strikeouts. Molitoris recorded her 200th career strikeout.
As painful as this game was for the Spartans they have nothing to be ashamed of as they reached the pinnacle of the state playoffs again overcoming the odds. Hundreds of others would have welcomed the opportunity to be where Montour was.
In the grand scheme of things there isn't a team in any sport that wants to be labeled a runners up. It's not the outcome they had hoped for but these ladies can walk away knowing they are the second best Class 4A softball team in the entire state of Pennsylvania.