BLOOMSBURG - Kayla Lavella missed every pitch of every game last season.

Southern Columbia's junior third baseman is making up for it this year.

After injuring her knee in basketball season as a sophomore, Lavella had surgery and was unavailable to the Tigers' softball team after hitting .418 with eight doubles and 14 runs batted in as a freshman.

She's been back for all of 2012, and the Tigers were grateful for her presence in the lineup in Monday's 5-2 win over Greenwood in their PIAA Class A semifinal at Bloomsburg University's Hutchinson Field.

Lavella went 3-for-4, including a double, with two runs scored and two RBI from her No. 3 spot in the Tigers' lineup.

The success was also welcomed by Lavella, who worked hard to get back in shape for basketball season,

when she scored 15.5 points a game, but still felt restricted and ill-at-ease with the large black knee brace on her right leg.

While basketball season was one thing, softball, especially playing third base, is another.

The lateral movement, ability to charge the ball and bend to field were all challenges to Lavella's surgically-repaired ligaments.

"It was really hard coming back because I was really nervous," Lavella said. "I was stopping myself a lot during basketball season, but when softball season started, (my knee) became stronger. Soon, I'm going to take the brace off because I feel strong enough now."

Lavella will wear the knee brace when the Tigers play Fannett-Metal, a 7-2 winner over Chartiers-Hou. She laughed when it was suggested that perhaps it was a good-luck charm.

The junior has been a key part of the Tigers' offense all season.

She's now hitting .453 after Monday's game with 31 runs scored, 29 runs batted in and a plethora of extra-base hits that includes eight doubles, one triple and three home runs.

Lavella's production was part of an overall better offensive day for the Tigers.

Southern smacked 12 hits off of Greenwood's pitchers, drew two walks and most importantly, only struck out five times.

"We didn't hit well against Minersville, but we really concentrated on batting and everyone started hitting better," Lavella said. "I didn't hit well the past two games, but I started hitting better this game, which I think helped us."

With strikeouts down and confidence up, Lavella and the Tigers are primed for one more win, a clear sign that all the hard work was worth it.