Olivia Mennig handled the formality of fielding the ball for the final out that secured Holy Redeemer’s first state softball title in 2015.
Mennig took on a different responsibility in the title repeat.
The senior second baseman from Dallas got the Royals started on the championship path this time around.
Mennig escaped a rundown between third base and home in the bottom of the seventh inning when Holy Redeemer fought past Elk Lake, 3-2, in the District 2 Class AA quarterfinals.
“I personally thought that districts was harder than states,” Mennig said. “It was really weird how it worked out, but I thought districts was tougher.”
Holy Redeemer had a pair of one-run wins in district play, including one with an extra-innings rally.
The Elk Lake game was the first of seven playoff games – three on the district level and four in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament – for Holy Redeemer, which on another state title June 16 at Penn State with a 9-3 victory over Moniteau.
As Holy Redeemer progressed deeper into the state tournament where the challenges are supposed to get bigger, the wins got easier.
Mennig scored in six of those seven playoff games. When she did not score, she drove in the third run in a 4-0 state semifinal victory over Pine Grove.
Although she did not receive a run batted in on the play, Mennig was involved in helping Holy Redeemer score the first run of the state championship.
The Royals struck in the top of the first inning with leadoff hitter Morgan Bienkowski singling and advancing on two groundouts. Bienkowski went from second to third on Mennig’s out and drew a throw across across the diamond after Mennig was retired at first base. When the throw got away, Holy Redeemer had an early lead and the first run scored against Moniteau in more than six weeks.
“I grounded out, but I also got Morgan home, which I thought was a big deal,” Mennig said. “That was very big to us.
“We knew we had to score to take their shutout streak away.”
Holy Redeemer went on to score five runs in the top of the first inning and Moniteau never got closer than four runs the rest of the way.
“We kind of struggled throughout the year with scoring runs in the first inning,” Mennig said.
Mennig was also part of an important fast start in the district semifinal against Dunmore. Bienkowski, Allyson Laiuvara and Mennig scored as the first three batters in the bottom of the first inning and the Royals held on for a 3-1 win.
Playing second base and batting third were just two of the responsibilities for Mennig as the only senior starter on the team.
“She was a captain,” Holy Redeemer coach Jerry Paulukonis said. “She was basically the vocal leader of the team.”
Mennig, who also played a prominent role on Wyoming Valley Conference and District 2 title repeats for Holy Redeemer in the fall, finished tied for third on the softball team in RBI (18) and doubles (5). She batted .281, scored 21 times in 27 games and shared the team lead in sacrifice bunts with 7.
When she was not at second base, Mennig was serving as one of Holy Redeemer’s fill-in pitchers. She went 2-0 with a 2.50 earned run average in four appearances.
“In the beginning of this season, it was really hard to picture winning it back-to-back,” Mennig said. “It doesn’t happen a lot.”
Holy Redeemer became just the third softball team in PIAA history to repeat as state champion.
“Once we hit district playoffs, it really started to make sense that we could do something really special again,” Mennig said.
After earning a letter as a freshman, Mennig started the last three years for Holy Redeemer. She is considering trying to play in college at the University of Scranton where she plans to study nursing.
Morgan Luksic and Sarah Kuderka were also part of the state championship team.
Luksic, a sophomore outfielder and utility player from Dallas, got in five games and went 1-for-4 with a run and RBI. She had her only hit in the regular-season finale against MMI Prep.
This was Luksic’s first year playing organized softball.
Kuderka, who had won state championships in Little League softball with the Bob Horlacher team from Beaumont, appeared in the state final as a courtesy runner for catcher Abigail Shorts.
The versatile freshman played in 22 games, including two as a pitcher. She was 3-for-16 (.188) with two RBI. Kuderka was 3-for-3 stealing bases and scored seven times. In the circle, she was 1-0 with a 1.75 ERA.