It was a hit Madison Hantz had a good feeling about the instant the ball came off her bat.
Given the ball’s trajectory, it was hard to blame her.
With no home runs this season, the Greensburg Salem senior doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional power hitter. But, when she saw a pitch come right down the middle, she knew she had a chance to do something special with it.
And with one swing, she did.
Leading off the top of the seventh inning, Hantz hit a home run far over the left-field wall to break a tie and give Greensburg Salem a 2-1 victory against WPIAL champion Thomas Jefferson in the PIAA Class AAA softball quarterfinals Thursday afternoon at Baldwin.
“The second I hit it, I was like ‘That has to be over,’” Hantz said. “It felt great to finally get a hit like that. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Hantz’s homer was the deciding play in a game where, for the longest time, seemingly nothing separated the two teams.
Claire Oberdorf led off the game with a home run for the Golden Lions (18-2), but Rachel Bowers’ sacrifice fly evened things for the Jaguars (16-7) in the bottom of the first inning.
Over the next five innings, that score held firm through a combination of strong pitching and missed opportunities.
Greensburg Salem stranded a total of five players over the next two innings.
For a moment, it looked as if Thomas Jefferson would take the lead in the third, but Maggie Kallock robbed Bowers of what would have been a home run.
That catch paved the way for Hantz’s heroics, a big play in a game largely devoid of them.
“Basically, what just happened was how I thought it was going to end. I just hoped it would be us,” Greensburg Salem coach Jody Morgan said.
“I thought a big hit was going to win this game.”
Melissa Wagner picked up the win for the Golden Lions, striking out seven and allowing one walk and one run over seven innings.
Oberdorf was the only Golden Lion with more than one hit. She went 2 for 4.
The game was a rematch of Thomas Jefferson’s 4-3 win May 22 in the WPIAL semifinals, a victory that continued the Jaguars’ surprising run to a championship and depriving the then-defending WPIAL champion Greensburg Salem of a return visit to the title game.
The loss marked the end of a benchmark season for a Thomas Jefferson, which won three games last year.
Still, there was a painful sting that came with seeing the run end.
“Someone had to lose and, unfortunately, that was us, but you can’t take away everything we’ve done this year,” Thomas Jefferson coach Heidi Karcher said.
“Nobody’s ever done this. As a player, coaches can tell you that all the time, but it still [hurts].”
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.