Lady Hornets advance to PIAA Class 4A semifinals

Honesdale turned in a stellar all-around effort Thursday evening at the PIAA state tournament.

The Lady Hornets used a potent combination of power pitching, clutch hitting and Gold Glove defense en route to a scintillating win in the Class 4A quarterfinals.

Coach Dave Patrisso’s squad jetted out to an early lead over District One champion Nazareth Academy at Patriots Park in Allentown. The local lasses then held on for an impressive 5-2 victory.

“I can’t really even put into words what I'm feeling right now,” an emotionally drained Coach Patrisso said just moments after Brooke Gardas fired to Alexa Jones for the final out.

“The fact that we’re here is a testament to the work ethic and the confidence these girls have in themselves. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Momentum

Marissa Gregory drew the starting nod and once again went the distance to earn the decision.

The flame-throwing righty pitched seven innings and scattered seven hits.

Natalee West and Gina Dell’Aquila paced the Red & Black offensive attack. West ripped a pair of hits including a two-run double, while Dell’Aquila chipped in with two RBIs.

Kaitlin Price, Gardas, Jones and Sadie Wood each contributed a key defensive play along the way.

With this win, Honesdale advances to the state semis for the very first time.

The Lady Hornets will take on West Perry, the third seed out of District Three. The Mustangs defeated Mifflinburg 5-2 in their Thursday match-up.

This semifinal showdown is scheduled for Monday afternoon at Central Columbia starting at 3 p.m.

Off & Running

Honesdale got on the board first with two runs in the top of the second.

Kaitlin Price led off with a walk and moved to second when West lashed a single. Wood hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Price, leaving runners on first and second with one out.

After Julianna Decker stepped in as a courtesy runner for the catcher, Dell’Aquila gave the Lady Hornets their first lead. Gina ripped an RBI single that plated West.

Moments later, Daub beat out an infield roller that allowed Decker to race home. Suddenly, Honesdale was up 2-0.

The Red & Black then tacked on another in the top of the third .

Megan Rembish ignited this uprising with a lead-off single. Price then joined her aboard with a basehit of her own. West and Dell’Aquila followed with consecutive walks, forcing in Rembish and upping the lead to 3-0.

The score remained there until the top of the seventh when Honesdale tallied a pair of crucial insurance runs.

West delivered in the clutch again, smoking a line drive double up the alley in left center. Natalee’s two-bagger plated Rembish and Grace Maxson. It also earned rave reviews from her skipper.

“I’m so happy for Natalee,” Coach Patrisso said of his junior outfielder who’s now hitting over .320. “She struggled a little bit early in the season, but boy has she worked hard and it really shows.”

West, Rembish and Daub each contributed two hits to the cause. Dell’Aquila collected a game-high two RBIs, while Jones ripped a double.

Dominance

Win, lose or draw on Monday, Gregory has already had a freshman softball season for the ages.

Marissa squared off against Nazareth Academy’s Deryn Dydak on Thursday. The Panda senior has been the definition of an “ace” this year, pitching 151 innings and allowing only 115 hits.

On this particular day, though, the youngster simply outshone the veteran as Gregory met every challenge she encountered.

Marissa worked seven innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits. She struck out five and issued a pair of walks.

Gregory now owns an eye-popping 16 wins as a freshman. Her ERA dropped below 2.50 and she’s piled up more than 150 strikeouts.

“There really isn’t much left for me to say about Marissa,” Coach Patrisso said with a smile. “I mean, she’s just been lights-out.”

Gregory seemed to be at her best when the pressure was highest. She dug down deep for a strikeout with the bases loaded in the second, then stranded two more runners with a huge K in the fifth.

“That’s Marissa,” Coach Patrisso said simply. “She’s fearless out there. Marissa isn’t afraid to throw any pitch in any count and that’s almost unbelievable in a freshman.”

That’s a Wrap

Nazareth Academy came into Thursday’s contest with a reputation for staging comeback wins.

The Pandas made local fans extremely nervous in the bottom of the seventh, but Honesdale refused to become their latest victim.

Natalie Minitti brought a roar from the crowd by crushing a towering solo homer to straight away center. The senior slugger terrorized Gregory all game long, roping three hits in four at-bats.

Julianna Nocito closed the gap to 5-2 with an RBI single, then raced all the way to third on an error.

Gregory dug deep one last time, though, recording the final out on a routine grounder to second baseman Gardas.

In the midst of the joyous celebration that followed, Coach Patrisso was asked if he ever envisioned such a run at the start of the season.

“I absolutely knew this was going to be a good year,” he said. “But being one of the final four 4A teams still playing in the state? That’s pretty amazing. It’s something I’m never going to forget.”