Jun. 19—STATE COLLEGE — To say Allie Huhn struggled at the plate this season is an understatement.
A multi-year starter for Tri-Valley, the senior second baseman entered Friday's PIAA Class A championship game against West Greene batting .202.
Huhn picked the perfect time to break out of her slump.
Crushing a ball to the wall in right field, Huhn drove in Grace Header with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift the Bulldogs to a 2-1 victory at Nittany Lion Softball Park. The RBI double completed the Dawgs' two-run rally that turned a potentially devastating one-run loss into a thrilling one-run victory.
"When I saw the ball go out, I'm like, 'I can't believe I just hit that ball,' " Huhn said. "I'm like, 'Wow!' And then I saw the runner go home, and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh!' I was in shock. I couldn't believe it."
For the first time in school history, in its first trip to the finals, Tri-Valley won a state softball championship.
"We didn't get down on ourselves," Huhn said. "We came back in other games. We knew we could do it."
So did head coach Marty Shade.
"On the bus over here, I said to coach (Dan) Deitrich, if I could have a wish, it would be for Allie Huhn to be the hero," Shade said.
As the only senior on the roster, Huhn has also emerged as a team leader and one of the strengths up the middle of the Dawgs' defense. She makes the plays at second base, including the start of a game-ending double play in the state semifinal win over Halifax.
"Allie's a great person," Shade said. "Everybody loves her. She's very bubbly and likes to have fun and laugh and joke around. Two years ago, she led the team in hitting, but then she decided not to play travel ball, and then we had the pandemic, and now all of a sudden she lost almost two years of batting. Everybody knows that you can't do that and expect to keep batting at a high average.
"So, she struggled at times this year, but she played solid defense for us," Shade added. "She's the leader of the team. She's in charge of the huddles and she cheers them on. She keeps battling, and she's a great kid."
Batting out of the No. 9 spot in the order, Huhn struck out in her first at-bat but made things happen in her last two trips to the plate.
In the fifth, Huhn dropped a perfect bunt between pitcher Kiley Meek and third baseman Lexi Six and got a single when West Greene was slow to cover first base.
Tri-Valley had a great chance to tie the game in that inning when Gianna Poletti followed with a single to right. The Pioneers, however, threw out the runner at the plate to start an unusual 9-2-5, inning-ending double play.
Instead of tying the game, Tri-Valley still trailed 1-0 and was down to its last six outs.
The mindset in the Dawgs' dugout: Frustrated? Yes. Giving up? No way.
Nobody exhibited that never-say-die attitude better than Huhn.
And now she's a state champion.
"It's overpowering," Huhn said. "I just love the feeling of this team, and I love playing with this team. When I was up to bat, I was, 'I have to do something. I didn't do anything my first two at-bats.' I held up to my responsibility for the team because they carried us to where we are today.
"I couldn't believe we did it," Huhn added. "I knew inside, deep down, that we could do it, but just seeing it in front of me, it shocked and surprised me. It was awesome. I love it. I couldn't ask for a better way to end my season."
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