BELLWOOD — First came a dink. Then later a dunk. And it was capped by a bloop.
Bellwood-Antis didnt exactly smoke the ball in the first inning of Mondays District 6 Class AA softball quarterfinal against Penns Valley, but the Lady Blue Devils certainly found all of the right spots.
Five hits yielded four runs and Taylor Payne made the margin stand up as fifth-seeded Bellwood-Antis topped No. 13 Penns Valley 5-3. The Lady Blue Devils (20-2) face top-seeded Philipsburg-Osceola, a 5-1 winner over Mount Union, in Thursdays semifinals with a PIAA berth on the line.
The emotional Payne, who led Bellwood-Antis to the District 6 Class A title last season, leapt into catcher Jacqueline Finns arms after securing the final out of her four-hitter. The triumph improved the Lady Devils (21-2) to 2-0 in their first trip to the Class AA tournament.
Weve never been (Class AA) in our lives, said Payne, who walked none and struck out nine. Each day were making history. Bellwood has never done this before.
The Lady Blue Devils looked like tournament veterans, especially getting off to a great start against the No. 13 Lady Rams (10-11), who had bounced No. 4 Central 8-2 in the opening round.
Leadoff hitter Anna Wolfes bloop single behind the second base bag signaled how the game would go for the Lady Blue Devils against Penns Valley pitcher Maggie Lynch.
Emily Nagle grounded a single up the middle and Finn grounded a single to left that was bobbled allowing Wolfe to score. Lauren Snyder followed with a two-run double, just out of the reach of center fielder Mackenzie Ironside. Following an out, a walk and a catchers interference loaded the bases, and Taylor Schildts bloop single plated the fourth run of the inning.
You hope that you get through innings like that, Penns Valley coach Don Lucas said. Theyre a good team and they did what they had to do. There were a lot of Texas-Leaguers the ones youre not going to get to with the outfield and the ones that the infield just cant get to. They had four or five of them. Hats off to them. They hit the ball well in the first inning.
Lucas said he thought Lynch actually threw well early.
To her credit, she was sawing them off at the handles and they were muscling the ball out of the infield, Lucas said.
Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Payne said the fast start was exactly what they were hoping against Penns Valley, a team his club was wary of.
With Penns Valley coming to town, we knew we had to get on them early and try to play with a lead the whole time, Payne said. We knew they were hitters and what they just did to Central. We wanted to make sure we jumped on them early and tried to keep them now.
The Rams proved how dangerous they could be in the fourth. Taylor Payne had allowed just one hit before Megan Houser led off with a single. Tangie Lyons followed with a single off of Paynes glove to set the stage for Madisyn Sharer. The senior lined a 1-2 pitch down over the left-field fence to cut the margin to 4-3.
This is going to sound kind of crazy, but I visualized a home run, said Lucas. In my mind, Im thinking a dinger right now would really be nice because that would get us within one.
I missed my spot a little, Payne said of the pitch that Sharer crushed. Shes a big girl and shes a good hitter.
While the home run fired up the Rams, it had the same effect on Payne.
Its just one of those things where you have to have amnesia, she said of the home run, the first shes given up at home this season. You just have to forget about it. ... Its one of those things. Its s over with. Were still winning. Lets go and lets hit.
Payne did not allow a hit after a Sharers blast. Penns Valleys lone two baserunners reached on errors.
I thought it amped her game up a little bit, Jim Payne said. I thought she started throwing a little bit more harder after that.
Lucas credited the hard-throwing Bellwood-Antis right-hander for frustrating his hitters.
Payne is a quality pitcher, he said.. She keeps you off-stride and off-balance. ... Really, she was the difference in the game. When you have somebody like that who can keep you off-balance, usually its going to be a tough day.
The Lady Blue Devils tacked on an insurance run in the fifth. Snyder had a leadoff double that Morgan Royer narrowly missed on a diving attempt. After two outs, Laycee Clark blooped a single to plate Snyder.
Wolfe, Nagle and Snyder had two hits each for the Lady Blue Devils, who had 10 in the contest.
Lucas praised seniors Lynch, Sharer and Royer, who played their final games, and his returnees.
Weve got a good nucleus back, Lucas said. We have a number of junior high girls coming up next year that will definitely help us out. Well be back.
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