CATAWISSA R.R. - Shamokin Area held a three-run lead and was one out away from clinching that ever elusive district playoff spot.

Southern Columbia freshman Christina Podpora was 0-for-3.

Moments later, Podpora had her first varsity home run, a three-run shot over the left-center field fence, the game was tied 9-9, and Southern was on its way to handing the Indians a devastating 10-9, eight-inning loss Monday at Southern.

The win improved Southern's record to 13-5 overall but that wasn't the big story. Shamokin, which at one time was 5-0 before hitting the heart of its tough Heartland Athletic Conference Division I schedule against powerhouses Jersey Shore, Milton and Mifflinburg, dropped to 9-8 with two games left, and must win one of the two to qualify for the District 4 AAA playoffs.

The Indians play Jersey Shore in their final conference game Wednesday, and have a non-conference game against Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech on Thursday. Shamokin also had a scheduled non-conference game with Line Mountain canceled because both teams were running out of playing dates because of postponements.

Making matters worse, the Indians had a 9-2 lead after four innings.

"We played just about a perfect game for five innings, then stopped hitting and made a couple of fielding mistakes, and they took advantage of everything," said Shamokin coach Rick Kashner. "Give them credit. They're a good team and they didn't quit."

Podpora said she wasn't looking to hit a home run in the big situation.

"I just knew I had to do something to get on base and give somebody else a chance to hit," she said. "It (the pitch) was just in the perfect sweet spot and I hit it."

Even though the home run was

her first as a varsity player, it didn't surprise Southern coach Al Cihocki. "She can pound it," Cihocki said. "She hits them in practice. She's a good athlete. She plays great third base for us."

Although Shamokin went down 1-2-3 in its half of the eighth inning, the Indians were close to forcing the game to a ninth inning with two outs and a runner on third, but Carley Nash uncorked a wild pitch to Angela Vought which allowed Blair Johnston to score from third. Johnston walked, was sacrificed to second and took third on a groundout. Ironically, Johnston was the only one of seven Tigers who walked that came around to score, although a hit batter also scored. Johnston's run was officially earned, but it was the fourth of the game for Southern which came as a result of defensive lapses.

Not that the Tigers didn't make their share. Southern committed four errors in the third inning when Shamokin took a 4-2 lead. Nash walked to start the inning and was sacrificed by Kortni Chapman, who was safe when Taylor Hoffman uncorked a wild throw to second to get Nash, then took second when the ball was bobbled in center by Haley Levan. Brie Bonshock delivered a two-run single and scored herself on a single by Olivia Bonshock.

Shamokin scored five more runs in the next inning. Chapman had a two-run double and Olivia Bonshock a two-run homer in the frame.

"They're a good hitting team and we got our heads down a little when they went ahead," Cihocki said.

But Hoffman, who was 3-for-3 and on base all five times she batted, led off Southern's fifth with a solo home run. Before the inning was over, the Tigers scored three more runs thanks to five straight singles and a wild throw to home.

Southern almost tied the game in the sixth, but Shamokin center fielder Jenny Hornberger made a great catch against the fence for the third out on a drive by Levan with two runners on base.

"I never dreamed it (a playoff spot) would come down to this," Kashner said. "The game that hurt us was the (second) Danville game. We didn't play well and they did."

Shamokin beat Danville 14-0 in their first meeting before losing to the Ironmen 10-4.

SHAMOKIN (AB-R-H-BI): Hornberger 3-1-0-0, B. Bonshock 5-2-2-2, Supsic 5-1-2-2, O. Bonshock 3-1-2-3, Wolfe 4-0-0-0, Forbes 4-0-1-1, Rodarmel 4-1-1-0, Nash 3-0-1-0, Faus 0-1-0-0, Chapman 3-2-1-1, C. Augustitus 0-0-0-0. Totals 34-9-10-8.

SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (AB-R-H-BI): Dunkleberger 5-2-2-0, Podpora 4-1-1-3, Hoffman 3-2-3-1, Herr 5-1-1-0, Johnston 2-1-1-0, Levan 2-1-1-1, Lupold 5-1-1-1, Vought 4-0-1-1, Welkom 2-0-0-0, Seltzer 0-1-0-0. Totals 32-10-11-7.

Carley Nash and Catherine Augustitus; Abbey Herr and Blair Johnston. W - Johnston (13-5). L - Nash (8-7).

HITS: Shamokin - Brie Bonshock 2-5, 2 runs, 2 RBI; Helana Supsic 5-1-2-2, Olivia Bonshock 2-3, 3 RBI; Kelsey Forbes 1-4, Madison Rodarmel 1-4, Nash 1-3, Kortni Chapman 1-3, 2 RBI. Southern - Jadyn Dunkelberger 2-5, 2 runs; Christina Podpora 1-4, 3 RBI; Taylor Hoffman 3-3, 2 runs; Herr 5-1-1-0, Johnston 2-1-1-0, Haley Levan 2-1-1-1, McKenna Lupold 5-1-1-1, Angela Vought 4-0-1-1.

2B - B. Bonshock, Chapman. HR - O. Bonshock; Hoffman, Podpora.