Lady Bisons To Test No. 2-Seeded Lady Dutch in 9-AAA Softball Semifinal

HYDE – The Clearfield Area High School softball team makes its return to the District 9 Class AAA Playoffs after a one-year absence with a trip to St. Marys Wednesday afternoon.

The third-seeded Lady Bisons, who alternated wins and losses in their last seven regular season games, are coming off a big 4-1 victory over defending champion Punxsutawney Friday and will take a 10-10 record into the semifinal against the second-seeded and 14-4 Lady Dutch at the SMAHS Field.

The first pitch is set for 4:30 for the renewal of a long-standing rivalry that ended when Clearfield dropped out of the District 9 Northern Allegany Mountain League and the Central Penn League after the 2010 season.

The winner will challenge No. 1 seed Punxsy (11-6) next week for the title and a berth in the PIAA Tournament.

The Clearfield-St. Marys series has been one-sided, with the Lady Bisons prevailing in at least the last 13 meetings dating back to the 2004 season.

However, the last three were one-run squeakers, including a 1-0 duel between then-freshmen hurlers Heather Picard and Rachel Ginther on April 21, 2010, at the Bison Sports Complex.

Picard pitched a three-hitter with 14 strikeouts and three walks, while Ginther allowed just four hits, fanned 11, walked two and hit one.

They could be matched up again, though Lady Bison coach Bob Dixon has the option of going with Rachel Hoffman.

He has alternated the two all season, and it’s Picard turn.

The junior right-hander has a deceiving 3-7 record as six of the losses have been to District 6 playoff contenders.

Picard sports a 3.38 earned run average for 60 innings in the circle. She’s given up 71 hits and 53 runs, only 29 earned, while striking out 59 and walking just 11.

Hoffman, a sophomore right-hander, is 7-3 with a 2.00 ERA. She has struck out 89 and walked 23 in 70 innings. Opponents have managed 56 hits and 37 runs, 20 earned.

Ginther has matured into a quality pitcher for the Lady Dutch, piling up 152 strikeouts, issuing only 16 walks and surrendering just 59 hits and 15 earned runs in 97-2/3 innings for a dazzling 1.08 ERA, according to statistics on Maxpreps.com.

She is 12-4 with four shutouts in 17 starts, posting no-hitters against Ridgway and Johnsonburg and combining with Andrea Copelli for another against Bradford.

Her losses were 2-1 and 4-3 to Punxsy, 2-0 to Districts 2-4 Class AAAA hopeful Williamsport (15-3) and 3-1 to District 9 Class A top seed Elk County Catholic (16-3), a team she also beat 3-0 and 2-1.

“I don’t look for a lot of runs, unless we get some people on in front of Rachel and B.J. (Bowman) and then they come through,” Dixon said.

The No. 3 and No. 4 batters have accounted for 53 of Clearfield’s 154 hits, 21 of the 34 extra base blows and 36 of the 82 runs batted in.

After going hitless in 11 at-bats through four games, Bowman has produced eight multi-hit games and boosted her average to .424, with five home runs, one triple and seven doubles among her 25 hits. The senior center fielder has drive in 19 runs.

Hoffman, who has played in the outfield or been the designated player when not in the circle, boasts a team-high 28 safeties, including six doubles and two home runs, for a .394 average with 17 RBIs.

Other probable starters for the Lady Bisons will be Lucy Kovalick (.236, 8 RBIs) behind the plate, Becca Byerly (.313) at first base, Melinda Owens (.200) at second base, Andrea Butler (.241, 10 RBIs) at shortstop and Megan Vanderburgh (.200) at third base with Robyn McBride (.323), Mikayla Ebeling (.25o) or Tristan Lewis (.179) the corner outfielders.

While Clearfield checks in hitting .282 and averaging 4.65 runs, St. Marys counters with a .305 average and 7.5 runs per game.

Shortstop and leadoff batter Erica Sorg paces the Lady Dutch in average (.393), hits (22) and runs (24), but she has plenty of support with six other regulars in the .300 Club.

They are first baseman Raelyn Cunningham (.341, 15  hits, 10 RBIs), second baseman Kali Quagliani (.333, 19 hits, team-high 16 RBIs), designated player Cassie Wonderling (.321), right fielder Mia Keener (,319, 15 hits, 12 RBIs), third baseman Sav Krivonyak (.317, 13 hits, 12 RBIs) and Ginther (.312, 15 hits, 14 RBIs).

Keener, a senior, was a member of Lady Bisons teams as freshman and sophomore.

All signs point to a low-scoring game that might come down to which team plays better behind its pitcher.

Dixon is hoping his Lady Bisons will match a Lady Dutch defense that has made only 16 errors, about a third of Clearfield’s total miscues.

“We can’t give them extra outs,” he said. “We can’t give them a chance to break the game open by making a bad play.”

Lady Bison Scoreboard:

Date Opponent Score Record
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
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