PUNXSUTAWNEY — Nicole DiPietro scored on a throwing error in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Punxsutawney a 3-2 semifinal win over third-seeded Clearfield in District 9 Class AAA Softball Playoffs action at Harry Noerr Field Tuesday.
Underdogs, primarily because of a 9-1 loss to the Lady Chucks on May 1, the gritty Lady Bison fell behind 2-0 in the first inning but prevented another runaway by backing Rachel Hoffman’s shutdown pitching with solid defense.
“I don’t think anybody expected us to come up here and give them the game that we did,” Clearfield coach Bob Lewis said. “They left their hearts and souls out on the field, and I’m very, very proud of ‘em. All the coaches are proud of them.”
Constant encouragement by the coaches kept the Lady Bison focused, and they finally got to DiPietro in the sixth inning, forging the tie with half of their eight hits.
Three seniors keyed the rally.
With one out, Megan Vanderburgh laced a single to left field for her 12th multi-hit game of the season and Hoffman belted a double into the left field corner. Later, Taylor Luzier delivered a two-out liner to left center that drove in the equalizer.
“It was pretty magical to see them come through in those moments,” Lewis said. “Luzier’s hit was absolutely clutch.”
Her third consecutive hit might been even bigger had courtesy runner Abby Snyder not been thrown out on a steal attempt. She was running for catcher Devynn Ireland, whose sharp grounder off third baseman Alyssa Reitz’s glove had plated Vanderburgh.
After going down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh, the Lady Bison saw their upset hopes dashed.
DiPietro led off with a hard single inside third base and, on Ivy Phillips’ bunt that resulted in a hit, alertly raced all the way to third base, which was left unprotected.
“We have gone over that numerous times in practice, but when you‘re in a pressure-packed situation, that‘s what happens,” Lewis said. “A lot of kids out there haven’t been in that situation.”
With the infield pulled in for a possible play at the plate, Hoffman found no one covering first base when she scooped up Shaina Painter’s dribbler toward the circle. She whirled to check DiPietro, who had designs on heading for the plate if the throw went to first base and was trying to scurry back to third. Hoffman had a play on the Lady Chuck pitcher, but her hurried throw sailed over Sierra Jones’ head, allowing DiPietro to score the walk-off run.
Ultimately, Clearfield closed the books on a 7-13 season because of a few too many mistakes, physical and mental.
The Lady Bison had a chance to break on top in the first frame when Vanderburgh ripped a single to center with Lauren Butler at second base. However, Butler got a late jump, hesitated briefly rounding third base and was cut down at the plate on perfect relay throws by Anna Horner and Jensen Constantino.
“I assumed she was coming on contact and I thought what I had was a decent read, and I didn’t,” Lewis admitted. “I take the blame for that. That’s my inexperience as a coach.”
With two down in the second inning, Victoria Ireland strayed too far from third base and was picked off by catcher Sydney Phillips.
One of Punxsy’s first-inning runs also was unearned. Ivy Phillips singled to center with one out, stole second and scored on a throwing error that permitted Painter to reach second base. Sydney Phillips made it 2-0 with a single through the middle.
Hoffman limited the Lady Chucks to one additional hit until the seventh. She struck out six and walked four.
“She obviously took control of the game and shut them down for five innings,” Lewis said. “She did very well.
“We had a couple miscues, but that how those tight games go in playoff ball.”
Lewis attributed the Lady Bison’s slow start to their postseason inexperience.
“We’re still a young team, I guarantee we had the jitters,” he said. “I had jitters, too.
“We don’t want to use that as an excuse. We just won’t. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but we played a heck of a game. I think our program took a giant step forward today.
“And you have to give credit to Punxsutawney. They’re a good team. They’ve been here before. Their coaching staff has been here before. So, I wish them well.”
The second-seeded Lady Chucks will put their 9-11 record on the line against defending champion St. Marys (13-4) in the title game that will be played next week at a date and site to be determined.
Lewis viewed the tough loss as a stepping stone for the Lady Bison, who had a junior, six sophomores and a freshman in their lineup.
“It’s stinging right now, but it’ll build character for ‘em,” he said after one last post-game talk with his second Lady Bison team. “And it will give them something to work for, to get back here next year. We want to host a playoff game. That’s our goal.”
The Lady Bison will have to do it without Hoffman, Vanderburgh, Luzier and reserve Samantha Foster.
Pitt-Johnstown recruit Hoffman, a four-year letterwinner who played center field when not in the circle, hit a sizzling .526 with 17 extra base blows, including five home runs that boosted her career total to 18 and a tie for the school record with 2012 graduate B.J. Bowman.
Three-year letterwinner Vanderburgh, who is headed for Shenandoah (Va.) College, was rock-solid at shortstop and wound up with a .448 average while sharing team-high laurels with Hoffman with 30 hits.
Luzier, in only her second season, came on strong down the stretch after being installed as the designated player to post a .344 average.
“The three that were in the lineup did very, very well, and I’m very proud of them,” Lewis said. “I’m happy for all the seniors. They were all great leaders this year.”
CLEARFIELD — 2
Lauren Butler 2b 4000, Sierra Jones 3b 2000, Megan Vanderburgh ss 3120, Rachel Hoffman p 3110, Devynn Ireland c 3011, Abby Snyder cr 0000, Taylor Luzier dp 3031, Justina Gaylor pr 0000, Victoria Ireland 1b 3010, Molly Sartin cf 3000, Raeleigh Redden lf 2000, Macala Leigey rf (flex) 0000. TOTALS: 26 2 8 2.
PUNXSUTAWNEY — 3
Nicole DiPietro p 4110, Ivy Phillips 3b 3120, Shaina Painter ss 4110, Sydney Phillips c 3011, Alyssa Reitz 2b 3010, Emily Horner rf 1000, Jensen Constantino 1b 3010, Alli Ishman dp 1000, Kim Shoemaker ph-dp 1000, Shania DeFoor lf 1000, Stephanie Smith ph-lf 2000, Anna Horner cf (flex) 0000. TOTALS: 26 3 7 1.
Score by Innings
Clearfield 000 002 0 – 2 8 3
Punxsutawney 200 000 1 – 3 7 2
E – Jones, Hoffman, Redden; Painter 2. PB – D. Ireland. LOB – Clearfield 5; Punxsutawney 9. 2B – Hoffman. SB – DiPietro, I. Phillips. CS – Snyder (by S. Phillips); S. Phillips (by D. Ireland). PO – V. Ireland (by S. Phillips).
Clearfield – Hoffman 6+ IP, 7 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 6 K.
Punxsutawney – DiPietro 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K.
W – DiPietro (7-5). L – Hoffman (5-11).
Umpires – Colleen Shannon (plate), Denny Koppenhaver (first base) and Jay Siegel (third base).
Final Lady Bison Scoreboard:
|3/24||@ Central||0 – 10||0 – 1|
|3/25||@ Central Mountain||ppd.||0 – 1|
|3/27||@ Huntingdon||8 – 4||1 – 1|
|3/31||@ Central Mountain||1 – 12||1 – 2|
|4/01||BALD EAGLE AREA||2 – 7||1 – 3|
|4/04||BELLEFONTE||ppd.||1 – 3|
|4/07||@ Tyrone||ppd.||1 – 3|
|4/08||@ Tyrone||ppd.||1 – 3|
|4/09||BELLEFONTE||4 – 5||1 – 4|
|4/10||PENNS VALLEY||7 – 6||2 – 4|
|4/14||BROOKVILLE||ppd.||2 – 4|
|4/16||PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA||ppd.||2 – 4|
|4/17||CENTRAL||2 – 7||2 – 5|
|4/22||HUNTINGDON||1 – 7||2 – 6|
|4/23||@ Bradford||ppd.||2 – 6|
|4/24||@ Bald Eagle Area||5 – 10||2 – 7|
|4/25||@ Bradford||ppd.||2 – 7|
|4/28||@ Tyrone||11 – 1||3 – 7|
|4/29||@ Bellefonte||ppd.||3 – 7|
|4/30||PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA||ppd.||3 – 7|
|5/01||PUNXSUTAWNEY||1 – 9||3 – 8|
|5/02||TYRONE||13 – 3||4 – 8|
|5/05||@ Penns Valley||1 – 2||4 – 9|
|5/06||@ Bradford||7 – 2||5 – 9|
|5/07||BROOKVILLE||13 – 3||6 – 9|
|5/08||@ Philipsburg-Osceola||11 – 0||6 – 10|
|5/08||@ Philipsburg-Osceola||11 – 1||6 – 11|
|5/12||@ Bellefonte||1 – 6||6 – 12|
|5/13||ALTOONA||10 – 1||7 – 12|
|5/15||@ Hollidaysburg||cancelled||7 – 12|
|D9 AAA Playoffs|
|5/20||@ Punxsutawney||2 – 3||7 – 13|