A near-perfect performance forced the Covington softball team to settle for a near-perfect record.
Strasburg-Franklin pitcher Kristina LaRocca retired 19 batters in a row and finished with a complete-game two-hitter to beat the previously unbeaten, No. 1-ranked Lady Buccs 3-0 in a Division IV state semifinal game Saturday at Firestone Stadium.
“It’s one of those things where we faced a good pitcher and she made good pitches,” said Covington coach Dean Denlinger, whose Lady Buccs (30-1) had averaged 11.6 runs in their five previous tournament games.
“She threw very well ahead in the count,” Denlinger added. “She had a nice curveball and threw it outside the zone and had us on our front foot quite often, more so than we’ve seen in the past.”
The loss marked the third year in a row Covington’s season has ended in the state semifinals.
Strasburg-Franklin (29-5) will play North Robinson Colonel Crawford (19-9) for the state championship at 1 p.m. today.
“It feels awesome,” LaRocca said after surrendering a leadoff single to senior Jessie Shilt before setting down the next 19 batters with 11 strikeouts, seven infield pop ups and one ground out.
“I didn’t pay attention to the streak,” the junior added. “I just went out there like a little robot. That’s what my dad always tells me — just go be a robot and hit your spot.”
Covington senior Casey Yingst matched LaRocca early, holding the Tigers hitless for 3 1/3 innings. But in the bottom of the fourth Tigers senior Mariah Crites launched a one-out double to deep center and later scored on sophomore Tea Burlingame’s single up the middle.
Strasburg-Franklin added two more runs in the fifth on senior Karly DiBacco’s two-out double.
Yingst eventually snapped LaRocca’s streak with a one-out single in the seventh, and senior Brittanie Flora followed with a walk to bring the tying run to the plate. But the Tigers’ Crites ended the game with a nice play on sophomore Morgan Arbogast’s hard-hit grounder in the hole at short.
“It’s been a great season with a great group of girls,” said Yingst, who allowed five hits while striking out 10 and walking three. “It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but how many teams can say they went 30-1?”