A Cinderella Dime Bank squad came within an inning of knocking off top-seeded Edward J. Schwarz
The Firebirds were a heavy favorite heading into Wednesday night's Missy Softball championship game.
Coach Tom Cummings' team hadn't tasted defeat all year and stood just one win away from a perfect season.
However, the Babes rolled into the title tilt as arguably the Senior Division's hottest team.
Coach Bill Taninies' club was fresh off a wild win over the Chicks in the semis and ready to challenge the Firebirds for diamond supremacy.
To the delight of several hundred enthusiastic fans who gathered on a perfect night at the HHS Complex, these two teams played what will be remembered as the season's most exciting game.
When the dust finally settled on this one, the Firebirds had rallied from an 8-run deficit to post an electrifying 17-16 victory.
With this win, the Edward J. Schwarz sponsored squad finished up with a perfect 17-0 record.
"This is all about the girls," Coach Cummings said. "I can't say enough good things about them. This is an amazing group of kids and I'm incredibly proud of them."
The Babes, who are sponsored by Dime Bank, also earned rave reviews from their skipper.
"These girls really turned it on in the second half," Coach Taninies said.
"They had a great attitude and they were very coachable. These kids never gave up and I'm so happy I got to be part of this. It was an awesome season."
With this heartbreaking loss, the Babes closed out their campaign with a solid 9-7-1 overall record.
Before Wednesday's championship game even began, one Dime Bank player showed the kind of courage that makes one stop and pause.
Babes outfielder Cindy Perricone broke her nose during warm-ups, but refused to leave her teammates and go to the emergency room.
Instead, she donned a mask, fought back the tears and scampered out to her position.
"She's one tough kid," Coach Taninies said simply.
Dime Bank players seemed to draw inspiration from Perricone in the early innings. The Babes erupted for 12 runs in the opening two frames and appeared to have the unbeaten Firebirds back on their heels.
Maggie Murphy, Grace Glossenger, Kayla Taninies, Allison Miszler and Sara Keast each contributed at least one key at-bat in staking out an early advantage.
However, as the game wore on, the Firebirds began chipping away at that lead.
Sydney Cummings smoked a 2-run triple to right center, then trotted home herself on an infield single. The hard-hitting shortstop would go 3-for-4 on the day with two runs scored and three RBIs.
Kayla Rembish also enjoyed a banner day at the dish. The Firebirds' three-hole hitter went 2-for-2 with a pair of walk and scored four times.
Brooke Rutledge was every bit as impressive at the plate for Edward J. Schwarz. The Firebird slugger also banged out two safeties, worked a pair of walks and tallied four runs.
Paige Gill terrorized Babes pitchers as well. A tough-as-nails catcher who also plays in the outfield, Gill cracked three hits in three as many at-bats. She also collected three crucial RBIs.
Down to the Wire
In the end, this explosive offensive battle came down to the final frame.
Bree Edwards pitched five strong innings for the Babes, while Brooke Rutledge came on to work three-plus in relief for the Firebirds.
Gina Dell'Aquila stamped her presence on the game by stealing home in the top of the sixth. That dazzling bit of baserunning gave the Babes a one-run lead with just three outs remaining in the season.
However, the Firebirds showed exactly why they'd come into the championship game undefeated and seeded #1 by staging one last desperate rally.
Rutledge led off with a single and moved up when Kayla Rembish walked.
After a perfectly executed double steal, Megan Rembish worked a walk of her own to load the bases.
Kaitlin Price then laced an RBI single which plated Rutledge and tied the score at 16-all. Moments later, Cummings earned a bases-loaded walk to force in the gamewinner.
Score by Innings...
Babes 6 6 0 2 0 2 - 16
Birds 4 4 1 6 0 2 - 17