Published: May 8, 2014
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TOWER CITY - Williams Valley right fielder Kyrsten Miller's known for her speed and defensive excellence.
The junior proved Sunday that she has some pop in her bat, too.
Batting ninth in the lineup, Miller launched a two-run home run in the second inning as the Vikings edged Minersville 2-1 in a pressure-packed, state-playoff-caliber Schuylkill League Division II game.
With the win, Williams Valley (17-0, 11-0 D-II) clinched the division title May 4 and became the first team to punch its ticket to next week's Schuylkill League playoffs.
Since the league reinstated the playoffs in 2009, the Vikings have never won the championship. They lost 2-0 to Pine Grove in the 2012 Schuylkill League semifinals.
And last season, Williams Valley finished third in the Division II standings yet finished first in the state, winning the PIAA Class A championship.
"This is something we've never done, and it's something I'd like to do for (the kids) to have it,'' Williams Valley coach Lee Reiser said.
In the second inning, Williams Valley's Tianna Yanoscak worked a leadoff walk. Two outs later, Miller clubbed a 2-2 pitch over the fence in left-center to give the Vikings all the runs they needed.
"When it's Minersville, it's always a big game. ... It's a game we look forward to, and when you shine in a big game like that, it's awesome,'' Miller said. "When you get a hold of it, and it makes a big impact in the game, it feels great.
"You know when you hit the sweet spot on the bat, it was definitely a good feeling,'' she added. "That was awesome (seeing my teammates) at the plate. They said I was smiling from ear to ear when I came in.''
Minersville (12-3, 8-2) answered in the top of the third when freshman Adrienne Kroznuskie smashed a low liner that cleared the center-field fence in a hurry. Kroznuskie's fifth homer of the season cut the deficit to 2-1.
Still with two outs in the inning, Emily Mealey followed with a single to left, and Mallory Ebert entered as a pinch runner. Lindsey Snyder then roped a double down the left-field line. Minersville tried to score the runner from first base, but left fielder Bindy Boyer threw to third baseman Kylie Doyle, who relayed to catcher Maura Kreiser, who put the tag on Ebert.
The run was also the first Williams Valley allowed since April 22 against Nativity, a stretch of parts of nine games and 35 total innings.
After Snyder's hit, winning pitcher Cassidy Pinchorski retired 11 of the final 12 batters she faced to improve to 14-0 on the season. She struck out seven and walked none.
Minersville pitcher Riley Gerenda (5-3) allowed five hits with three strikeouts and one walk.
"I'm very happy with how we played. We played them tough,'' Minersville coach Dave Homa said. "These games, one swing of the bat, and that's the difference. Riley pitched very well. (Pinchorski) pitched just a little bit better. She got out of jams that we got them into, but overall I'm very happy with our progress. Now we get ready for the rest of the season.''
Through three innings, Minersville had five hits and one run off Pinchorski. That's when she and Kreiser made an adjustment to disguise her pitches better.
"We started changing it. They didn't know what was coming,'' Pinchorski said. "They're a good team and they have really good hitters, so I don't want them knowing what I'm throwing.''
Neither team made an error in a playoff-level game played in a crisp 1 hour, 14 minutes in front of a large, playoff-level crowd that circled the field.
Williams Valley left with its second win this season over Minersville but one much closer than the 7-0 beatdown the Vikes put on the Miners on April 3. In addition, they won their 25th straight game and clinched their second division title in three seasons.
"I said to the girls, 'If you can't get excited about this ... Look at the people everywhere. It's like you're at a state (playoff) game,' '' Reiser said. "And you're playing that caliber of team. Whenever we get together, you know it's going to be a good game.
"It couldn't have been played any better,'' Reiser continued. "It was a great game and they're a great team. (Homa) does a great job coaching year in and year out, and it's always a dogfight.
That's what makes us so competitive when we get on to the next level," he added. "Whether Minersville's in the state tournament or whether we're in the state tournament, we're going to make waves - there's no doubt about it - because you play that type of competition."