THORNDALE – Back in 2019 when Mifflinburg’s Major Softball All-Stars were 8-, 9- and 10-year olds, they watched as St. Marys beat them on the way to claiming the state championship.
Ever since that loss, Mifflinburg’s players made a vow to be more like St. Marys.
Two years later the roles have been reversed. Mifflinburg is now the squad that St. Marys and the rest of the teams in the state will want to model themselves after.
That is all thanks to Maggie Rubendall, whose walk-off RBI single on Sunday lifted Mifflinburg to a 3-2 victory over St. Marys in the championship game of the Little League Softball PA State Tournament at the Caln L.L. Complex.
Now it’s on to the East Region Tournament in Bristol, Connecticut, for Mifflinburg, which will open against a team from Rhode Island at 8 p.m. Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
“I told the girls that we needed to play the game like we had to beat St. Marys twice and not (the other way around),” said Mifflinburg manager Heath Stewart. “You can’t take a team like St. Marys lightly.
“The girls, when they lost to St. Marys two years ago, they were like, ‘We want to be like them.’ And they worked hard to get this,” added Mifflinburg’s manager, whose squad is the first Little League team from the area in any level to advance out of the state tournament since Milton’s Senior League team in 2006. Milton went on to win the World Series that year.
The lead in the tense matchup on Sunday changed hands a couple of times, with St. Marys tying the game at 2 in the fifth on Kaylen Eozzo’s RBI single.
But in the sixth, a leadoff triple by Taylor Stewart set the stage for a historic win as it put the winning run a mere 60 feet away.
Although the next two Mifflinburg batters were intentionally walked — Chloe Showalter and Brooke Gessner — to load the bases, Taylor Stewart didn’t have to wait very long to come home.
That’s because two batters later Rubendall, on an 0-2 pitch no less, drove a one-out single into center field to plate Stewart and give Mifflinburg its state title that it has been searching for the past two years.
“After (Chloe and Brooke) got walked, I knew the pressure was on me. And with two strikes on me, it was a lot of pressure but I did it. I’m proud of myself,” said Rubendall, who finished the game 1-for-1 with a walk. “I’ve been in kind of a slump lately, and all I knew was that I needed to get the bat on the ball. I felt so grateful to just hit the ball and get Taylor home. It was awesome — and a great rush.
“St. Marys was the team to beat in this tournament, and we achieved our goal. We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” added Rubendall.
Taylor Stewart, for one, was speechless after scoring her team’s game-winning run.
“I don’t even have words to say. The win hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m just so proud of all the ladies I get to share the field with,” said Taylor Stewart, who finished 2-for-3 and had two runs scored in addition to throwing a complete game with six strikeouts, no walks and giving up one earned run off seven hits.
“My best friend (Showalter) was up right after me and she was going to hit me home, and I know it. That’s why the (St. Marys) coach put her on because she’s the No. 4 batter and she’s obviously going to hit, but I’m just so proud of Maggie.”
After getting shutout 2-0 by Mifflinburg on Friday, St. Marys opened Sunday’s game by getting an RBI double from Bailey Thorwart in the first inning.
Mifflinburg tied the game at 1 in the second when Lainey Miller scored on a fielder’s choice from Olivia Fetterman.
“I thought the girls were going to be down after St. Marys scored first, but they weren’t. They were upbeat,” said Heath Stewart. “We basically told them, ‘Look, you can’t win a game unless you score a run, so you just got to get another run, and another run and (then) see what happens.”
Showalter, who didn’t get a chance to be a hero in the sixth, showed some heroics in the third when her two-out RBI single to right plated Stewart to give Mifflinburg a 2-1 lead.
“I was really nervous at the beginning (of my at-bat) knowing there were two outs, but then once I finally started fouling some pitches off I was like, ‘I’m just gonna hit one of these out,’” said Showalter, who finished her day 1-for-2 at the plate. “And as soon as I hit the ball I was so excited, and when I saw that Taylor scored I was like oh, my God.
“We grew together as a team through districts and sectionals. We had our ups and downs, but I’m glad we’re all still together having fun,” added Showalter. “We’re all really close with each other and that just helps the team out a lot.”
In addition to Taylor Stewart, Anna Pachucki posted a 2-for-3 day from her leadoff spot to be one of the leaders for Mifflinburg at the plate.
“I feel very good (to be state champs),” said Pachucki. “I was very nervous at the end of the game, and I was thinking that it was either going to be good or it was going to be bad, and it turned out to be good thankfully.
“(Going to Bristol) hasn’t sunk in yet, but when we’re driving there it will,” Pachucki added.
“I don’t think the girls realize how big this is. I really don’t,” said Heath Stewart. “This is what the girls have talked about for the last two years. They were bummed they missed last season because of COVID, and before that they were like we want to play All-Stars for one more year and we want to (win states).
“I definitely think this championship is a long time coming,” added Mifflinburg’s manager. “The girls wanted to win states ever since they got knocked out of the 8-9-10 state tournament, and they worked hard (to get this title).”