High School Sports

Bellefonte softball falls in opening round of PIAA playoffs

psheehan@centredaily.com

Bellefonte shortstop Alexis Wetzler hobbled off the field in the bottom of the second inning, writhing in pain after a baserunner’s cleat gashed her left leg. The leader of the infield, who needed stitches after Monday’s PIAA Class 4A first round game, missed the following frame — and it affected the Lady Red Raiders.

“I think at that point, that changed momentum a bit,” Bellefonte coach Fred Caldwell said. “It’s difficult for the team to stay focused when you have an injured teammate.”

Yough took advantage of the swing.

The Lady Cougars plated the only runs of the game in that third inning and held on to beat Bellefonte 2-0 at Nittany Lion Softball Park. The season is over for the Lady Red Raiders (18-5), while Yough (18-3) advances to the PIAA second round.

Yough’s Kierra Waywood was the winning pitcher, limiting the District 6 champions to four hits over seven innings of work. Waywood recorded only two strikeouts but induced three pop-ups and eight groundouts by jamming the Lady Red Raiders.

“She hit where we were calling,” Yough coach Art Harvey said. “And when she does that, we’re pretty good.”

Bellefonte ace Tara Baney was the losing pitcher but turned in a fine performance. The senior allowed only four hits and struck out three.

However, Baney caught a couple of unlucky breaks in the third inning.

With a runner on first and two outs, Yough’s Hannah Bach drove a hard grounder toward third baseman Rianna Trexler. As Trexler went for a backhand snare, the ball skipped up and hit the junior in her protective face mask. Bach reached first, and Aubrie Mance moved to second.

Next up was Waywood, who hit a grounder to second baseman Emma DeHaas. The sophomore threw it over to second to get the force out and end the inning — but Taylor Kerr, who was filling in at shortstop for Wetzler, was beat to the bag by Bach.

Meanwhile, Mance rounded third and beat the throw home, Bach moved up to third, and Waywood reached second.

A harmless, two-out ground ball turned into Yough’s first run.

“We’ve been aggressive on the bases all year,” Harvey said. “Sometimes it gets you, and sometimes it helps you. Today it definitely helped us.”

The Lady Cougars used their legs again two pitches later. A wild pitch by Baney — an uncommon mistake for the usually dominant hurler — allowed Bach to score.

Yough had a 2-0 lead that felt even larger.

“Honestly I was thinking, ‘This is it,’” Waywood said. “We have it right here. We’ve got it.”

It was a disappointing inning in a game otherwise played well by the Lady Red Raiders.

“We made some uncharacteristic mistakes in the third,” Caldwell said. “They’re a good team, and they capitalized. It cost us.”

It’s the second year in a row that Bellefonte has fallen to Yough in the PIAA playoffs. Last season, the Lady Red Raiders lost 13-3 in six innings in the state quarterfinals. It was a tighter game this time around but still disheartening for Bellefonte.

For a team that outscored its last five opponents 49-4 entering Monday’s game, Bellefonte couldn’t really get anything going at the plate. The Lady Red Raiders never had more than one hit in an inning and only once managed more than four batters in a frame. Bellefonte’s top three hitters in the order — Baney, Wetzler and Trexler — combined for two singles.

And for Baney, as well as centerfielder Angela Capparelle and catcher Jenna Ault, the loss to Yough was their final Bellefonte game. Caldwell said the three seniors have been “the core of the team for three years,” and that it’ll be difficult to replace them next season.

Between Wetzler’s unfortunate injury, the third inning hiccup and lack of hitting, Monday wasn’t an ideal way for Bellefonte to end its season.

But the Lady Red Raiders coach is unequivocally proud of his 2017 squad and what it accomplished.

“As a whole, the team got better as the year went on, from the beginning until now,” Caldwell said. “As a coach, that’s what you want. They did everything you’d want.”

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9

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