The Port Allegany softball team celebrated Senior Night on May 16, sending its Class of 2019 duo, Jenna Sprankle and Kierra Keck, off in style with a 12-9 win over Smethport in the Gators’ final home game of the season.
“I’m definitely going to miss them,” coach Will Daniels said. “Kierra has great speed in centerfield, and Jenna is usually pretty sure at first base.”
Sprankle went 2-for-3, doubling to centerfield in the bottom of the first inning to drive in Port’s first run of the game, then drawing a bases-loaded walk in the second as part of a seven-run inning for the Gators. The outburst also included a 2-RBI single from Raelynn Torpey, and Cailey Barnett also netted a pair of RBIs in the game.
Trailing 9-2 to start the third, the Hubbers got right back into the game, sending 11 batters to the plate and plating seven runs of their own to knot the score at 9-all.
“We had one bad inning, and we’ve been notorious for that all year. That’s why we lost last night when we were up until the fifth,” Daniels said, referring to his club’s 5-3 setback at Galeton on May 15, when errors led to four unearned Tiger runs.
Against the Hubs, Port rebounded with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning to retake the lead. Sprankle led off with a single to right and Tori Tanner followed with a walk, with Sprankle coming around to score on Barnett’s infield hit and Tanner tagging up from third on Keck’s deep fly to centerfield.
“We could’ve went south a long time ago, but they haven’t given up,” Daniels said of his young squad. “When these guys came out and put seven runs up and tied the ballgame, they could’ve folded. But we came out and put a run up and said, okay, let’s keep playing. It’s a great mentality to have.”
Port added one more run in the bottom of the fourth, with Bree Garzel racing home from third and sliding in underneath the tag on a wild pitch. Marah Rush kept the Hubbers at bay the rest of the way, ringing up five strikeouts and scattering four hits over the final five innings.
“Marah did pretty good. She’s done a great job the last two nights, she really has,” Daniels said, noting that the pitching staff has been “limited” due to injury and illness.
The win put Port’s record at 7-9 going into the season finale, a doubleheader at Coudersport.
“I looked at the season as, if we can get to .500, that is a great season for such a young team. Not just young kids, but young players,” Daniels said.
“As a coach, it’s a roller-coaster ride with them. You have this and this and this,” he said while moving his hand to mimic the ups and downs of said amusement-park thrill ride. “I said to myself and to my wife and everybody going in, it’s going to be a fun year, but it’s where you pull your hair out and then you scream ‘Yay!’ But it’s fun because you know they’re wanting to play, they want to learn. That’s what makes it fun, win or lose. Overall, I’m very happy with what they’ve done so far.”
In Friday’s finale at Coudersport, the playoff-bound Falcons swept both halves of the doubleheader, taking the first game 13-3 in five innings and the second by a 26-9 score in six, to end Port’s season at 7-11. Barnett drove in two of the Gators’ three runs in the opener and added a double, two runs, and another RBI in the nightcap, with Sprankle (3-4, double) recording a pair of RBIs in her final high school at-bats.