Saturday, June 19, 2010

Let's Hear It For the Girls!!!

Way to go, ladies!!!

PIAA Softball: 'Perfect' Badolato leads Mt. Lebanon to state title
Saturday, June 19, 2010
By Michael Sanserino, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
Mt. Lebanon players lift their trophy after defeating Central Bucks South in the PIAA Class AAAA Championship in Shippensburg Friday.
SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. -- Neon orange fingernails dug into a bright yellow ball as Mt. Lebanon pitcher Geena Badolato stared down her 21st batter.
Facing a 3-2 count, Ms. Badolato was one strike away from a perfect game -- and one ball away from a near miss.
"I know I have a perfect game, but, if I walk her ..." Ms. Badolato said, her voice trailing.
That "if" will remain hypothetical.
Ms. Badolato capped her perfect game with a strikeout as Mt. Lebanon beat Central Bucks South, 1-0, to win the PIAA Class AAAA softball championship Friday at Shippensburg University.
She struck out 11 batters for Mt. Lebanon's first state title and the first perfect game in PIAA softball championship history.
"I'm just so at a loss for words," Ms. Badolato said. "It's definitely something I've worked for. One of my goals was to put a banner up at my school."
Ms. Badolato received the only run she needed in the first inning, when No. 3 hitter Tess Apke drilled a home run over the right-center field wall.
"I just saw the ball in and did my best," said Ms. Apke, who also hit the deciding homer in a 1-0 victory against Shaler in the PIAA quarterfinals.
Mt. Lebanon coach Nicole Fajtak was not sure the run would stand, but Ms. Badolato made her a believer.
A Robert Morris recruit, Ms. Badolato quickly worked through the South batting order. Only 10 balls were hit in play, and none left the dirt infield.
The game's defensive gem came in the top of the fifth. South third baseman Morgan Decker smashed a line drive toward the hole between second and third, but Mt. Lebanon third baseman Kathleen Mathison lunged left and snagged the low liner out of the air.
"That actually takes some of the pressure off Geena because she knows she has a great defense behind her," Ms. Fajtak said. "I think that's what makes her throw as well as she does."
Ms. Badolato had pitched several no-hitters in her career, but never a perfect game. She said the distinction belonged to her whole team, since they could not commit an error in order for it to happen.
"If I have it on the mound, everyone else has to have it behind me," she said. "And I knew they had it today."
Once the Blue Devils got out of the fifth, the murmurs of a perfect game started to grow.
In the stands, Ms. Badolato's sister, Leah, and father, Frank, stayed silent.
"I was thinking it the whole time," Leah said. "I didn't want to say anything to jinx it."
In the midst of a no-hitter or a perfect game, superstition prohibits anyone involved from talking about what might happen. For a few innings, it was the elephant in a crowded Mt. Lebanon dugout.
"We looked at each other in the sixth inning," Ms. Fajtak said, "and none of us said anything because none of us speak of it."
Ms. Badolato sat at the end of the dugout -- as she always does -- and casually talked to teammates about opposing pitcher Francesca Carrullo, who also was pitching a gem.
But when Ms. Badolato and the Blue Devils walked on the field at the top of the seventh inning, the nerves reached a crescendo.
Before every inning, Ms. Badolato throws three warmup pitches to catcher Jen Bahm, who throws to second base. But, as Ms. Badolato prepared to throw the most important inning of her life, Ms. Bahm jumped the gun, throwing the ball to second base after only two warmup pitches.
"It scared me," Ms. Badolato said. "We always do three pitches."
Ms. Bahm said she did not mean to break tradition; she was just a little distracted.
"I was nervous," she said. "I knew we had a good shot [at a perfect game], but it was still nerve-wracking."
Ms. Badolato quickly retired the first two batters of the inning, but with one batter separating her from a perfect game, she ran the count to 3-2 for the third time all game.
"You want the win," Ms. Fajtak said, "but, for Geena, I wanted her to go out the way that she deserved to. I was looking for that strike three like no other."
Ms. Badolato threw a fastball over the plate, and when South second baseman Haileigh Stocks swung and missed, the Mt. Lebanon dugout erupted.
"She deserved that," Ms. Fajtak said. "That was the best way. If I could write a story, that's how I would write her leaving the softball field."
The pitcher has painted her fingernails neon orange during Mt. Lebanon's run through the postseason. Chips force her to repaint them before every game. But she won't paint over that paint job, even if it chips soon.
"I'll keep it on for awhile now," Ms. Badolato said. "I'll just let this one wear off."
She does not want to wash away any memory from this game, which was some cap to her high school career.
"It was just the perfect way," she said, pausing for a moment to recall what she just said. "Literally."
Michael Sanserino: 412-263-1722.Read more: