It took a while, but the Bellefonte bats finally got warmed up Monday afternoon.
For a few innings, there were reasons to be concerned.
“Once we started hitting we could keep it going,” Lady Raider shortstop Alexis Wetzler said. “We usually start hitting in the third inning, the second time through the batting order.”
Once the bats were sufficiently warm, Bellefonte pulled away from Huntingdon 8-0 at O’Leary Fields in the District 6 Class 4A softball semifinals.
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The top-seed and defending district champion Lady Red Raiders (14-4) will meet Somerset in the finals at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Penn State’s Beard Field. The Eagles beat Johnstown 3-2.
Tara Baney pitched a four-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts, and also cracked a solo home run as part of a 13-hit attack.
Baney never let a Bearcat get past second base, and, in addition to her strikeouts, she also was responsible for eight more outs with her glove on come-backers, including starting a double play. Three of the four hits allowed didn’t leave the infield, and the only ball that did all game was a pop up that dropped behind third base as three Lady Raiders converged on the ball.
“Any time you have a pitcher like Baney and a team like Bellefonte, you get behind a few runs it makes the task a lot tougher,” Bearcat coach Chris Patrick said. “She got stronger as the game went on and we really weren’t able to generate any offense.”
The Lady Raiders had their own frustrations. The first three batters reached base in the first, but they could not get a run across. In the third, they had runners on second and third and again were denied.
“I think there was a little frustration when we didn’t score in the first three … innings,” Caldwell said. “That’s something that, this year, we’ve scored most of our runs in the fifth or later. I think that’s something they’re a little bit used to, unfortunately.”
The coach was counting on his seniors to keep the team focused.
“We said, ‘Calm down a little bit and do the basic things,’” Baney said. “We know how to field the ball, we all know how to hit the ball, so just do the basics.”
Loading the bases again in the fourth, they finally got the timely hits. Mallorie Smith stroked a two-run single to left, and after an intentional walk to Baney loaded the bases again, Wetzler came through with another two-run single.
“We were kind of getting nervous, but we knew we hit well against them last time,” said Wetzler, who was 3 for 4. “As we started (to get hits) it got much better and we were pretty confident at the end.”
Bellefonte again had the bases loaded in the fifth without cashing in, but found some insurance in the sixth.
All it took was the first pitch of the inning to Baney, who drove the ball deep to left into the wind for her fifth homer of the season.
“As soon as it hit the bat it had a great sound to it,” Baney said. “I honestly didn’t know it was out until I turned first base and coach (Travis) Foster gave me a high five.”
Then with two outs, the team strung together four straight hits, with a two-run double by Angela Capparelle and an RBI single by Jenna Ault. Capparelle was 2 for 3 in the game and Lissy Przybys also had two hits.
Catherine Miller took the loss in the circle, and Kylie Shea was 3 for 3 with a double for the Bearcats (8-9).
Bellefonte doesn’t have long to savor the win with Somerset waiting on Wednesday. The Lady Raiders know they will have to get the offense started earlier against a team with which they are not as familiar — but they feel ready to chase their 19th district title.
“I guess we’re confident,” Wetzler said. “But Somerset is a tough team so we know we still have to put the foot down and keep going.”