High School Sports

Bellefonte softball blows out Somerset, defends district crown

For a while, every Bellefonte batter heard the same thing before each pitch Wednesday afternoon.

“Hey you, swing and a miss,” a Somerset fan with his face painted black, white and orange, yelled from behind home plate. “Swing and a miss.”

Bellefonte’s bats quieted those chants in the third inning.

The Lady Red Raiders — propelled by a six-run, two-out rally in the third frame — defended their district crown at Nittany Lion Softball Park, dominating Somerset 10-0 in five innings to capture the District 6 Class 4A championship. It’s their 19th district title in program history and the 17th since 1997.

Bellefonte (18-4) will face the No. 2 seed out of District 7 on June 5 in the first round of the PIAA playoffs — and it’s buzzing heading into states after Wednesday’s hit parade.

“It’s what you coach for, days like this,” Bellefonte head coach Fred Caldwell said with a wide smile. “You’re relaxed. They’re playing their game, and everyone has some fun.”

That joy was evident as pitcher Tara Baney and her beaming teammates crowded around the championship trophy for post-game photos. Their families and friends stood in the bleachers behind Bellefonte’s dugout, clapping and cheering as medals were placed around each girl’s neck.

But before the hardware was doled out and the Snapchat stories were updated, the celebration really started in the third inning.

The Lady Red Raiders tallied 14 hits on the afternoon, seven of which were in that third frame. Of those seven base knocks, five came with two outs.

Bellefonte started the third with a 2-0 lead and busted the game open.

Alexis Wetzler, who had two hits on the day, drilled a one-out triple and crossed home on a Rianna Trexler single the next at-bat. However, Lissi Przybys lined out after Trexler, and then Emma DeHaas faced a 2-2 count with two outs.

The sophomore came through, blooping a single into right field to keep the inning alive and energize the rest of the Bellefonte batting order. Angela Capparelle powered a hard grounder through the right side to score Trexler and DeHaas, Taylor Kerr plated Capparelle on a first-pitch triple, and Jenna Ault’s dropped fly in right field pushed Kerr across.

The Lady Red Raiders led 7-0 when freshman Mallorie Smith — Bellefonte’s No. 9 hitter — finished off the rally. The lefty slapped a liner into left-center, and Somerset’s centerfielder — who was shifted slightly for a pull — laid out and missed the ball completely. It rolled all the way to the wall, Ault scored, and Smith bolted around the bags and slid home for an inside-the-park home run.

The Bellefonte dugout erupted, while Somerset was left in a state of shock.

“We never got things going today,” Lady Eagles coach Craig Stinebiser said with a blank look. “We just couldn’t get out of that third inning.”

And when they did, it was too late — the damage was done. Wetzler ripped a one-out single to score Smith in the fifth, invoking the 10-run mercy rule and ending the game.

It didn’t help the Lady Eagles that they couldn’t get anything going at the plate themselves. They can thank Baney for that.

Bellefonte’s senior ace notched her 15th win of the season, allowing three hits and needing only 39 pitches to navigate five innings of work. Her glove came in handy on more than one occasion, too, as she initiated three double plays in the first three innings.

“After those three double plays, we used their lack of momentum to help us,” Wetzler said. “I’m glad we were able to break through and keep it going.”

The trio of double plays, coupled with Bellefonte’s commanding third inning at the plate, continues the Lady Red Raiders’ recent superb form. After blowing by Somerset in five innings, Bellefonte has outscored its last five opponents 49-4.

Now, the Lady Red Raiders are rolling into the PIAA tournament with plenty of excitement — and momentum.

“That six-game stretch has given them a lot of confidence,” Caldwell said. “We’re peaking at the right time.”

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9