HYDE – The Clearfield Area High School softball team, riding a three-game winning streak, had an opportunity to climb into the Mountain League Allegheny Division title chase Friday.
However, the Lady Bisons stumbled in their bid to derail front-running Central, which overcame a slow start to depart the Bison Sports Complex with a 10-3 victory on a sunny but cold and very windy afternoon.
“I just felt good at the beginning of the game that we were going to play really well,” coach Bob Dixon said.
The Lady Bisons didn’t and also failed to produce nearly enough runs from 10 hits — three by hot-hitting B.J. Bowman and two each by Melinda Owens, Heather Picard and Nellie Wallace — and three free passes, stranding 11 runners.
Three of their four errors factored into six unearned runs for the Lady Dragons, now 5-0 in the division and 11-2 overall.
And pitcher Rachel Hoffman battled control problems most of the game. The sophomore right-hander struck out eight but issued five walks and was guilty of six wild pitches, two allowing runners to score and three others that enabled Lady Dragons to advance to third base. All three eventually crossed home plate, too.
“I think what happened was some players had some bad at-bats, and they took it out on the field with them,” Dixon said. “I was telling them after the game, ‘You can’t do that, because you hurt the team if you’re not ready to play when the ball is hit to you.’
“It’s just so frustrating because they’ve been playing so well. “(Thursday) night, we didn’t play our best game (at Juniata), but we played a good game.
“Man, to come in here tonight and let things bother us… I preach to them they’re good. Stay nice and even.”
The Lady Bisons did hang with the Lady Dragons through four innings before the showdown got away from them in the fifth.
Central snapped a 2-2 tie with five runs, all unearned, on three hits, aggressive baserunning that included four stolen bases, two Clearfield miscues, a wild pitch and a passed ball.
Paige Mock capped the rally with a two-out, two-run single to left. Ashley Smith registered an RBI with a line single off the end of first baseman Becca Byerly’s glove.
The Lady Dragons tacked on a singleton in the sixth on Taylor Garman’s RBI-groundout and two runs in the seventh on a walk, Mock’s double up the right center alley and two wild pitches for junior Kylie Gunnett, who struck out nine and walked three in her 11th win.
Clearfield (5-7, 3-3 ML-AD) should have carried a 2-0 lead into the fifth, but Ashley Smith got Central on the board with a sacrifice fly following a wild pitch that put Janine Snyder in scoring position in the third frame and Kate Blattenberger scored on an error as she stole third base in the fourth.
In the bottom of the third, Owens led off with a single through the box and came all the way around on a ringing double to left center by Bowman, who moved up on a wild pitch and scored when Picard’s fly ball to short left fell for a hit.
The final Lady Bison run came in the seventh on a single through the left side by Hoffman that extended her hitting streak to 11 games, an error and a liner to left by Bowman that gave the senior centerfielder 13 hits in her last 18 at-bats.
Bowman is 15-for-22 with 12 RBIs in the last seven games after starting the season 0-for-11.
“She’s hotter than a Fourth of July firecracker,” Dixon said. “She’s seeing the ball well, and she’s really tearing the cover off the ball.”
Clearfield played its second game without shortstop Andrea Butler and outfielder Mikayla Ebeling, who are with the school band on its trip to Virginia.
The Lady Bisons missed Butler’s leadership, according to Dixon.
“Butler’s good at keeping them up,” he said. “She’s not afraid to tell them if they’re messing up.
“Hey, you’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt. And that’s what we did.”
He added that Megan Vanderburgh, the regular third baseman, and Wallace have given a good account of themselves at short and third, respectively.
Next week, the Lady Bisons have bus trips to Bradford Tuesday, Tyrone Wednesday and Philipsburg Friday.
CENTRAL — 10
Marissa Snyder 2b 5220, Taylor Garman c 4111, Ashley Smith 3b 3112, Taylor McKnight ss 3000, Kate Blattenberger cf 4210, Kylie Gunnett p 1200, Paige Mock rf 4123, Kassidy Snyder 1b 3000, Janine Snyder lf 4120. TOTALS: 31 10 9 6.
CLEARFIELD — 3
Tristan Lewis lf 4000, Melinda Owens 2b 4120, Rachel Hoffman p 4110, B.J. Bowman cf 3132, Heather Picard dp 4021, Lucy Kovalick c 4000, Becca Byerly 1b 3000, Nellie Wallace 3b 4020, Megan Vanderburgh ss 2000, Robyn McBride rf (flex) 0000. TOTALS: 32 3 10 3.
Score by Innings
Central 001 151 2 – 10 9 5
Clearfield 002 000 1 – 3 10 4
Errors – Garman, Mock, K. Snyder, J. Snyder 2; Lewis, Hoffman, Wallace 2. PB – Kovalick 2. LOB – Central 6; Clearfield 11. 2B – Mock; Bowman. SF – Smith. SB – M. Snyder 2, Blattenberger 4, Gunnett; Wallace.
Central – Gunnett 7 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 9 K.
Clearfield – Hoffman 7 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 8 K.
WP – Gunnett 1; Hoffman 6.
W – Gunnett (11-2). L – Hoffman (3-3).
Umpires – Sam Bevak (plate) and Dave Neal (bases).