BELLEFONTE In past playoffs, Bellefonte has shown a striking ability to take care of business, avoid upsets and keep advancing.
As the District 6 Class AAA playoffs began for the Lady Raiders on Thursday afternoon against Hollidaysburg, none of that has changed.
Hosting the 3-14 Tigers in the semifinal of the District 6 Class AAA tournament, Bellefonte wasted little time asserting its dominance.
The Raiders scored four runs in the first inning, added another four more in the fourth and combined with the four-hit pitching of Hannah Cooper to cruise to a 9-1 win and a spot in the district title game.
Bellefonte was led by Jessica Gmereks two hits and three RBIs, Vanessa Coopers three hits and an RBI, and Christina Tresslers big two-run double in the first inning. In all, the Lady Raiders pounded out 12 hits, including four doubles and a triple, and had only two runners left on base in the game.
Bellefonte will face No. 2 Huntingdon in the title game on May 30 at Penn States Beard Field. The Bearcats upended third-seeded Somerset 13-4 on Thursday.
That (first inning) was tremendous, Bellefonte coach Gregg Kohlhepp said. Weve played some of these games where its 2- 0 at the end, and to get four there, as well as Hannah (Cooper) was throwing and the defense was playing ... When they made mistakes, they picked themselves up for the most part and got themselves out of some jams.
The Bellefonte bats started going immediately in the game. Hannah Cooper led off the first inning with a single, was sacrificed to second by Jillian Musser, and then was driven in by Gmereks first hit for a 1-0 Lady Raider lead.
Vanessa Cooper followed with another single, sending Gmerek to third. Gmerek then scored on a wild pitch that made the score 2-0. After a walk and stolen base by Erica DeVinney, Tressler lined a double to right-center that scored Cooper and DeVinney and put the Raiders ahead early at 4-0.
We felt comfortable then, Kohlhepp added, but I was worried that we would stop hitting at that point and rest on four runs, but we were fortunate they kept the bats going.
The Lady Raiders put those worries to rest in the fourth inning. Ahead 4-1 and after the first two batters in that inning popped out, Kellie Giles doubled, Hannah Cooper walked and Musser made it 5-1 with an RBI single that scored Giles.
Gmerek followed with a double that scored plated courtesy runner Alicia Allen and Musser, making the score at 7-1. Vanessa Cooper followed with a triple that scored Gmerek. Cooper tried to stretch a hit that sailed over the left fielders head into a homer, but was thrown out on a close play at the plate.
The damage was done, however, and Bellefontes two-out lightning produced a comfortable 8-1 lead.
Productive day we came together as a team, Gmerek said. Its just one hit leading into another, and thats how scoring is done.
As the Bellefonte offense was clicking, Hannah Cooper was shutting down the Hollidaysburg hitters. After three innings, she had allowed only two baserunners, as neither had reached second base.
In the fourth, the Tigers briefly tightened the game. They got a base hit from Krista Shay, a single by pitcher Alyssa Pheasant, and an RBI single by Brooke Ickes that cut the deficit to 4-1.
Cooper, however, was able to get Courteney Storm and Taylor Herr on groundouts to end the inning without further damage. Hollidaysburg wouldnt get another hit.
Cooper didnt walk a batter and struck out four. She finished strong, retiring nine of the final ten batters.
If it was a bad pitch and I didnt get it to go where I wanted, I was going to have my defense get it, Hannah Cooper said. So I was comfortable letting them swing at it, letting them hit the ball to my defense.
Bellefonte added another run in the fifth after a double by DeVinney and an RBI single by Carly Chambers that made the final score 9-1.
Taking a look ahead, we are still looking at one game at a time, Hannah Cooper said. I think we got a little of our nerves out today, and we should be able to keep playing ball the way we have been. We did take care of business today, and thats what we are about. We do what we need to do. We play really well together, and I am glad I am with this team.