AURORA — You know how the old saying goes, “It’s hard to beat the same team three times in one season”, right?
Erie has, and it’s like music to their ears.
For the second time in the last three seasons, the orange and black Tigers got the better of Holy Family in the state semifinals, winning 9-5 on Saturday afternoon to advance to the Class 4A title game against top-seeded Golden.
“You win some and you lose some,” said senior Noelle Gardon, who team didn’t lose much — four times to be exact — over the last two seasons. “We knew that the third time is always the hardest, but we came out gave it our all and at the end of the day, the chips fell where they fell.”
It was a tough pill to swallow for the Holy Family and its faithful following, who had watched the Tigers lose just once all season. Coach Mitch Martinez’s team finishes 25-2.
Holy Family had beaten Erie twice already — 10-7 at home and 7-3 at their place — and were confident going in against Erie pitcher Megan Loveland. But it was also a chance for Erie to see Cassidy Chvatal for a third time, and they were ready.
Erie loaded the bases in the first inning with on out, but Chvatal was able to wriggle out of the jam by getting Mady Vaughan to pop up to Gardon and then striking out Paige Gilbert.
The 14th-seeded Tigers again created traffic in the second inning, but stranded two more runners when Chvatal was able to get hard-hitting Kat Sackett to fly out to Tyler Whitlock in left field.
After Gardon’s solo home run in the bottom of the second gave Holy Family the lead, Erie once again threatened. But with runners at second and third with only one out, Chvatal induced a pop out and a fly out to get out of another jam.
But if you play with fire too many times, you are bound to get burned, and it turned into a bonfire in the top of the fourth.
The first two hitters reached and then Sackett was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Jen Williams then ripped a single that would put Erie up for good, plating two runs. Then the biggest blow of all, came on Lauren Russell’s three-run home run that made it 5-1 in the blink of an eye.
“We kept fighting, but they got the timely hits and we didn’t,” Martinez said. “That’s just how it is.”
Holy Family had a chance to come right back and make things interesting in the bottom half of the inning. They loaded the bases with only one out, but Loveland got Jenna Pfenning to fly out to right and Chvatal to bounce back to her for the final two outs of the inning to leave them loaded.
The Tigers would get two back in the fifth inning to cut the lead to 5-3 on base hits from Whitlock and Abby Edwards.
But the momentum quickly swung back to Erie and Sackett. The senior, who was just 1-for-9 against Holy Family pitching during the regular season, crushed the first of her two late inning home runs against Chvatal that sealed the deal for Erie — solo in the sixth and a two run shot in the seventh.
“That whole team is amazing. They hit gaps and they hit the ball hard and the hope is that we can do the same thing at the same time,” said Gardon, who in her final prep game at Holy Family went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. “They got the best of us today and that was it.”
The Tigers made things interesting in the seventh with three straight doubles from Gardon, Edwards and Ava Kuszak, but couldn’t string together any more to keep the rally going.
It was a bitter sweet end to a miraculous run for the two seniors — Anna Martinez and Gardon — that will be remembered around Holy Family for some time.
“It’s been a roller coaster and none of the years have been the same and all of the teams have been different and had different experiences with all of them,” Gardon said. “But I wouldn’t change any of them for the world.”
CLASS 4A SEMIFINALS
ERIE 9, HOLY FAMILY 5
At Aurora Sports Park
Erie (21-8) 000 501 3 — 9 12 0
Holy Family (25-2) 010 020 2 — 5 14 3
Holy Family hitting (ab-r-h-bi) — Anna Martinez 4-1-2-0, Carly Eldredge 3-0-0-0, Tyler Whitlock 4-1-2-1, Noelle Gardon 3-2-3-1, Abby Edwards 4-0-2-2, Lindsey Deau 0-1-0-0, Ava Kuszak 4-0-2-1, Jenna Pfenning 4-0-1-0, Cassidy Chvatal 4-0-1-0, Celeste Garcia 0-0-0-0, Annika Manzanares 4-0-1-0. Totals 34-5-14-5. 2B — Whitlock, Martinez, Gardon, Edwards, Kuszak. HR — Gardon (solo in the 2nd).
Holy Family pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Chavatal 7-12-9-5-2-3.