CURWENSVILLE – Defending the bunt will be a key for the District 9 champion Curwensville Area High School softball team against Cambridge Springs in Monday\’s PIAA Class A Western Final at Slippery Rock University, with a trip to the state title the prize for the winner.
Though both teams are hitting over .300 and are aggressive on the basepaths, the 4 p.m. game figures to be a duel between Lady Tide sophomore Holly Lansberry and Spa junior Stephanie Baer, pitchers with tremendous strikeout-walk ratios and very low earned run averages.
That will put a premium on taking advantage of scoring opportunities.
While Curwensville coach Allen Leigey relies on his players to come through by attacking the ball, Cambridge Springs coach Mark McKissock prefers to put pressure on opponents by have his Spa play small-ball.
The District 10 champs parlayed five bunts and four Elk County Catholic errors into three insurance runs late in their 5-0 first-round victory last Monday. Six of the Spa\’s 11 hits off Lady Crusader pitcher Amber Schaefer were bunts.
Baer\’s sacrifice bunt set up the Spa\’s first run and another bunt in the eighth figured into the deciding run Thursday when Cambridge Springs eliminated District 7 champion Chartiers-Houston 5-3. The loss was the first in 23 games for the Bucs, who committed eight errors.
Curwensville knocked out the other two District 7 qualifiers, Lansberry no-hitting third-place Leechburg 1-0 and four-hitting WPIAL runner-up Vincentian Academy 7-1.
The Lady Tide, boasting a school-record 23 wins in 25 games, owns two wins over Elk County Catholic, 9-0 May 8 and 7-0 in the District 9 title game. Lansberry pitched three-hitters in both games while racking up 22 strikeouts and walking only one.
Baer gave up only one hit and struck out seven against ECC for her 11th shutout of the season. She has pitched every game for the Spa and is 22-2 with a .90 earned run average. She has struck out 221 batters and walked only 23.
Lansberry\’s ERA is a miniscule 0.41 in 138 innings. She has a 21-2 record with 15 shutouts, two of them no-hitters, and has registered 239 strikeouts.
Lansberry will be facing a lineup that carried a .309 average into the Chartiers-Houston game, led by catcher Elizabeth Dine at .474 and Kristen Humes at .426.
Dine had two of the Spa\’s six hits, one a double, against Bucs\’ ace Michelle Greenwalt, who had a 0.44 ERA and 202 strikeouts. Dine has good power, with seven doubles, five triples, three home runs, and has driven in 21 runs. Humes has nine doubles and 23 RBIs.
Baer leads the team in RBIs with 24, including the first two against Elk County Catholic with a third-inning single and a fifth-inning triple. Three of her 11 extra base hits are homers, and her average is over .320.
Cambridge Springs, which won its third consecutive District 10 Region 2 crown, has outscored its opponents 164-28 and has been charged with only 19 errors for a fielding average over .950. Typifying the Spa\’s solid defensive play is first baseman Margo Livermore. The senior, who is hitting .280 with two home runs, has not had a miscue in 146 chances.
Curwensville, which was flawless in the field in three of its five postseason games and had only one error in another, has piled up 197 runs and surrendered only 18.
Eight Lady Tide hitters are over .300, topped by sophomore right fielder Shannon McDonald\’s .413. Three others are very close to joining the .400 Club, senior shortstop Dani Struble and freshman center fielder Tess Bloom both at .396 and senior catcher Dana Johnson at .392. Lansberry, who leads off, is hitting .369 with 33 runs scored, junior left fielder Samantha Haney is at .328, senior first baseman Ronna Knepp is just under .340 and sophomore third baseman Ashley Demchak is at .310. Senior second baseman Kristi Newpher has a .258 average.
RBI leaders for the Lady Tide are Johnson with 27, McDonald with 23, Demchak with 20 and Struble with 19.
Curwensville\’s balance on offense showed against ECC. In the first game, McDonald had a home run and three RBI, Knepp a homer and two RBI and Demchak, Bloom and Newpher two hits apiece. In the second game, Struble had a single, double and four RBI, Knepp three singles and an RBI, Haney a single, double and RBI and Lansberry two singles.
The Curwensville-Cambridge Springs winner will play Upper Dauphin or Williams Valley in the PIAA championship game Friday at Robb Field on the Shippensburg University campus.
District 3 champion Upper Dauphin (19-2) has nipped District 1 champ Bristol and District 4 champ East Juniata 2-1, while District 11 titlist Williams Valley (22-2) has downed District 4 runner-up Canton 8-5 and District 6 runner-up Southern Huntingdon 4-1.