ST. MARYS – Summer softball teammates Heather Picard of Clearfield and Rachel Ginther of St. Marys hooked up in a pitching duel reminiscent of their 1-0 classic two years ago when they were freshmen; but the outcome was different in Wednesday’s District 9 Class AAA semifinal showdown at the St. Marys Area High School Field.
Ginther, who fired a four-hitter with 10 strikeouts, and the Lady Dutch eked out their first victory over the Lady Bisons in at least a decade, 3-2, to become the challengers for the championship Punxsutawney has won the last four years. The Lady Dutch will take on the No. 1-seeded Lady Chucks Tuesday at Brockway in the 4:30 p.m. title game.
For the disappointed Lady Bisons, the end of an up-and-down season ultimately hinged on a bang-bang play at home plate that went against them in the bottom of the sixth inning when they were down 1-0.
Erica Sorg tagged up on Cassie Wonderling’s fly ball to short left, but Tristan Lewis’ strong, on-the-money throw beat her to the plate.
However, the umpire’s ruling was that Sorg had managed to slide under Lady Bison catcher Lucy Kovalick’s tag to avert an inning-ending double play and score the first of two crucial insurance runs.
Moments later, former Lady Bison Mia Keener drove in the eventual game-winner with a single to center.
Coach Bob Dixon believed Keener, a senior who played for his Lady Bisons as a freshman and sophomore, should have been the Lady Dutch leadoff batter in the seventh.
“In my eyes, and in my heart, I know that was an out,” he proclaimed after noting he was sitting on a bucket at the end of the Clearfield dugout closest to the plate when the play unfolded. “Lucy hit her foot and came up and tagged her on the shin.
“It may have been out yesterday and it may be out tomorrow, but today it was safe. There’s nothing you can do about it.
“If we get that (out), they would have got nothing, and we would have gone up 2-1 in the seventh.”
That’s because B.J. Bowman walloped a home run to left field after Rachel Hoffman walked in the top of the last inning.
However, Bowman’s fifth homer of the season only spoiled Ginther’s shutout instead of possibly lifting the Lady Bisons to what would have been a great win.
“That was a tough loss,” Dixon said. “I knew that girl (Sorg) was in trouble, because Tristan’s got the best arm in the outfield. It’s accurate, and it’s strong. And Lucy had plenty of time.
“I guess she should have dropped to her knees and blocked the plate and made the tag. But she still hit her on the bottom of the foot when she slid in there.
“Hey, we didn’t lose the game because of the umpire, because we only scored two runs and we scored them in the top of the seventh. You’ve gotta score more than that.
“But we played good. We played some good, heads-up defense.
“And Heather pitched a real good game. She located really well. Her curve ball worked really nice. She kept us in the game.”
Picard had only two strikeouts but walked none. She gave up seven singles, three in each of the innings the Lady Dutch scored, and was aided by a double plays in the fourth and fifth innings that kept it close.
Keener set up the first St. Marys (15-4) run in the second inning by dropping down a perfect bunt toward third. Perched at second after a wild pitch, she scored on Rachel Cunningham’s hit to right center.
Meanwhile, Ginther was in cruise control.
She was working on a perfect game until Hoffman belted a double over center fielder Taylor Bellina’s head with two outs in the fourth inning.
Clearfield’s only other hits were a double to deep left by Lewis with two outs in the fifth and a bunt single by Andrea Butler with one out in the sixth. Butler was doubled up when Melinda Owens popped up a bunt attempt.
Ginther kept the ball down and pounded the outside corner against Clearfield’s all-right-handed lineup in her 13th win.
“She’s very good,” Dixon said. “She’s always around the plate and kept the ball low, except when she wanted to go up.
“She stayed outside, and I thought we looked at too many third strikes. We try to tell them to be defensive when you get two strikes on you. You’ve got to put the bat on the ball if it’s close. You can’t stand and look at it. Unfortunately, we seemed to look at a few of them.”
Lady Bisons watched called third strikes on four occasions and were unable to put a lot of pressure on a very good Lady Dutch defense that has committed only 16 errors.
Still, they were one rally away from pulling it out going to the lower sixth.
Sorg led off by slapping a single into left center. Kali Quagliani bunted her up to second before Ginther dropped a hit just in front of the hard-charging Mikayla Ebeling in short right field to set the stage for Wonderling’s sacrifice fly and Keener’s ensuing single that plated Cassie Daniels.
Ginther’s courtesy runner, had advanced to third on a wild pitch and the all-important play at the plate.
So, Bowman’s dinger only made it close as the Lady Bisons finished 10-11 after climbing to the .500 mark four times.
“With as many girls as we had (back) this year, I thought we would be better than that,” Dixon said. “I thought we’d win more games than we did, but we just didn’t seem to hit real well.
“It was kind of disappointing that, as coaches, we didn’t get our team to play more consistently. Some nights, we played like champions and some nights we were a little bit below that level.
“They’re good kids to coach. They’re good competitors. They played hard. They gave a good effort. They had a pretty good attitude.
“The pitchers did real well. I think Heather and Rachel really carried us. And B.J. and Rachel did a good job at the plate.
“Overall, it was a tough season.”
Playing their final game for the Lady Bisons were center fielder Bowman, shortstop Butler, second baseman Owens, Lewis and outfielder Robyn McBride. Outfielders Morgan Brooks and Amanda Peoples were the other seniors.
Bowman padded her school-record home run record to 18 and wound up with 86 hits, a .448 average and 59 runs batted in for her four-year career that included a shortened freshman season when she suffered a broken thumb. She also was a standout defensive player.
“She was one of the better softball players to play at Clearfield, without a doubt,” Dixon said. “She had a great career and as the season wore on, she showed some great leadership.
“If we ever sat down to pick a Hall of Fame for Clearfield softball, she would be in there on the first ballot. She was that good.”
“Owens always gave 110 percent and had a real good attitude.
“Butler was a real spitfire who played with a lot of emotion. She always was a good, steady player. And she led very well by example.
“Lewis played second base and some at shortstop and third base and even pitched in her freshman and sophomore years before we finally found a position for her in left field. She became a real good defensive outfielder. You wanted her out there somewhere because of how hard she worked.
“McBride worked her way through the program and was a good outfielder and pretty good hitter.
“Brooks and Peoples saw they weren’t going to get much varsity playing time, so they were willing to go down to jayvees and showed some leadership. They pushed the jayvees to work harder.”
See photos of the game here: http://www.ladybisonsports.org/lbsSBall052312.html
CLEARFIELD — 2
Andrea Butler ss 3010, Melinda Owens 2b 3000, Rachel Hoffman dp 2110, B.J. Bowman cf 3112, Heather Picard p 3000, Lucy Kovalick c 3000, Tristan Lewis lf 3010, Becca Byerly 1b 1000, Robyn McBride ph 1000, Megan Vanderburgh 3b 2000, Mikayla Ebeling rf (flex) 0000. TOTALS: 24 2 4 2.
ST. MARYS — 3
Erica Sorg ss 3110, Kali Quagliani 2b 2000, Rachel Ginther p 3110, Cassie Wonderling dp 2011, Cassie Daniels pr 0000, Mia Keener rf 3121, Rachel Cunningham 1b 3011, Hayley McGowan c 2000, Taylor Bellina cf 1010, Sav Krivonyak 3b 2000, Kelsey Fritz lf (flex) 0000. TOTALS: 21 3 7 3.
Score by Innings
Clearfield 000 000 2 – 2 4 2
St. Marys 010 002 x – 3 7 0
Errors – Butler, Byerly. DP – Clearfield 2 (Owens and Byerly; Kovalick, Owens and Butler); St. Marys 1 (Krivonyak and Cunningham). LOB – Clearfield 2; St. Marys 3. 2B – Bowman, Lewis. HR – Bowman (5). Sac – Quagliani, Bellina. SF – Wonderling.
Clearfield – Picard 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 2 K.
St. Marys – Ginther 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 10 K.
WP – Picard 2.
W – Ginther (13-4). L – Picard (3-8).
Umpires – Ron Caskey (plate) and Jim Thomas (bases).
Lady Bison Final Scoreboard:
|3/26||@ Bellefonte||1 – 11||0 – 1|
|3/28||MIFFLIN COUNTY||0 – 10||0 – 2|
|3/30||@ Penns Valley||0 – 1||0 – 3|
|4/04||@ Huntingdon||9 – 1||1 – 3|
|4/09||@ Central||3 – 9||1 – 4|
|4/11||TYRONE||7 – 1||2 – 4|
|4/13||PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA||1 – 11||2 – 5|
|4/16||@ Central Mountain||1 – 3||2 – 6|
|4/20||BALD EAGLE AREA||8 – 0||3 – 6|
|4/23||@ Juniata||ppd.||3 – 6|
|4/25||HUNTINGDON||8 – 7, 8 inn.||4 – 6|
|4/26||@ Juniata||12 – 3||5 – 6|
|4/27||CENTRAL||3 – 10||5 – 7|
|5/01||@ Bradford||10 – 0||6 – 7|
|5/02||@ Tyrone||13 – 3||7 – 7|
|5/04||@ Philipsburg-Osceola||0 – 5||7 – 8|
|5/07||CENTRAL MOUNTAIN||ppd.||7 – 8|
|5/08||@ Hollidaysburg||ppd.||7 – 8|
|5/09||@ Hollidaysburg||4 – 0||8 – 8|
|5/10||ALTOONA||3 – 5||8 – 9|
|5/14||BROOKVILLE||3 – 0||9 – 9|
|5/15||CENTRAL MOUNTAIN||3 – 9||9 – 10|
|5/18||PUNXSUTAWNEY||4 – 1||10 – 10|
|5/23||District 9 AAA Semifinals|
|@ St. Marys||2 – 3||10 – 11|