After belting two mammoth home runs in the District 6 Class AAA softball final, Bellefontes Vanessa Cooper fielded a lot of questions about her great day.
But when all was said and done, Cooper wanted to give the credit for the 8-1 win to something bigger than her two mighty swings.
Were playing Bellefonte softball the way it is supposed to be played, the sophomore catcher said.
Bellefonte softball: You hear that term a lot when youre around the 2010 PIAA champions.
Theyll begin their quest for another PIAA crown tonight, when the Lady Red Raiders (18-4) face Big Spring (20-4) at 7 p.m. at Penn States Nittany Lion Softball Park.
What is Bellefonte softball exactly?
Ask different players and coaches and youll get some variation, but the theme remains focused on the team.
Its a different brand of softball, said Cooper, who is a perfect 5-for-5 in the postseason. Its the dedication. Its waking up at 5 a.m. to lift weights during school. Theres nothing else like it. I love all of these girls and were capable of anything.
We play together, added Vanessas older sister, pitcher Hannah Cooper, who improved to 15-2 with a two-hitter against Huntingdon. We dont let each other down. We look each other in the eye. We know that were not going to let anything stop us. Were going to keep pushing forward and were going to stay together to get the job done. Thats Bellefonte softball.
Coach Gregg Kohlhepp likes to point to the tradition of softball at the school. He recently had a player from the schools first team speak to his players about the bonds that were forged more than 40 years ago.
And, theres the tradition of winning. Bellefonte has won all but one of the District 6 Class AAA titles since 2003. They won a state crown two years ago and advanced to the semifinals last season before falling 1-0 against eventual champion Valley.
We like to see that tradition carry on, Kohlhepp said. Its an intense focus on playing every play hard. Its being about the sense that its bigger than you. I love the fact that our kids arent into individual accolades. It really is about the team.
Even when they get down, they stay together, he added. Thats the greatest compliment. As coaches, we are inspired by these kids every day. Were honored to be working with them. ... The fact that they do this as a unit and as a team, we couldnt ask for anything more.
The Lady Red Raiders are hot. Theyve won seven straight and havent lost in more than a month.
I feel like were playing really well, junior shortstop Erica DeVinney said. Were playing as a team. Were starting to get things going together. Theres a lot of work to be done, but its looking good.
Our defense is phenomenal, senior Hannah Cooper said. Our hitting is pretty strong. Were hitting line drives. Were not making easy outs. Were making it hard for other teams to do things.
The Lady Raiders have made a habit over that last moth of scoring in bunches. They had a pair of four-run innings in a 9-1 semifinal win over Hollidaysburg and scored all eight in one inning against Huntingdon in the finals.
Weve had a lot of games where weve been two-out dangerous, Kohlhepp said. ... Theres a never-say-die belief that they can do that.
Theyll get an opponent thats fresh off a big inning. Big Spring scored six runs in the third inning to snap a 2-2 tie in its 10-2 romp over Northern York in the third-place game in District 3. Brittany Wagners grand slam highlighted the outburst. Pitcher Taylor Mansfield tossed a three-hitter.
Catcher Ashley Baker, a dangerous hitter, pitcher/ outfielder Calli Pastor and shortstop Morgan Paynter are all Mid-Penn Colonial Division first-team all-stars.
The Lady Raiders say theyre not worried about who theyre playing but about those two words that are so important to this team.
As long as we come out every day and play that Bellefonte softball, this team can beat anybody, Vanessa Cooper said.
Walt Moody can be reached at 231-4630. Follow him on Twitter @wmoodycdt