High School Sports

High school softball: Bellefonte, Johnstown square off for District 6 Class AAA title

What do you do when you don’t know a lot about your opponent?

Bellefonte softball coach Gregg Kohlhepp says the answer is simple — you worry about yourself.

“Our plan really is to play our game, play Bellefonte softball,” said Kohlhepp, whose second-seeded Lady Red Raiders (12-8) face top-seeded Johnstown (11-4) at noon Wednesday in the District 6 Class AAA title game at Nittany Lion Softball Park. “Hopefully, that will be good enough against anybody.”

Over the years in District 6, Bellefonte softball has been pretty good. The Lady Raiders are gunning for their 13th district crown in the last 15 seasons.

They got off to a good start, avenging a regular-season loss to defending district champ Hollidaysburg with a 3-2 victory last Thursday. Aside from the Lady Raider faithful, there was an interested group of spectators from Johnstown at O’Leary Field.

“They all came up to watch us play,” Kohlhepp said. “The whole Johnstown team was here because they didn’t have to play anybody.”

With only three teams in the bracket, the Lady Trojans received a bye directly to the district finals. Despite facing possible elimination, Kohlhepp was glad his team got in a game, instead of having two weeks off.

“I’d rather have the game than the layoff,” he said. “To play a game like that and to be able to go back-and-forth and have to make pitches and plays, that helps. Obviously, I was really happy with the way we played that game. I think that puts us in a good place to continue playing playoff softball.”

And what is the key to winning in the playoffs?

Kohlhepp, who led the Lady Raiders to a PIAA title in 2010, believes Bellefonte’s team approach makes a difference.

“Our secret is the sum is more than just the parts put together,” he said. “They really understand that they have to do their job and that no one can really do more than their job. When they try to do that, it usually doesn’t bode well.

“We have all of our kids on the team know what role they have to do and what job they have to be ready for. They just have to take care of their piece of the puzzle and everything falls into place with that. If you can get a team buying into that and playing on the field like they are a family and have their teammates’ backs, that really creates a very powerful team.”

Bellefonte catcher Vanessa Cooper will be playing in her fourth consecutive district title game. The UMass-Lowell recruit went 3-for-3 against Hollidaysburg. She also has good history at Beard Field, having blasted two long home runs in the 2012 District 6 title game.

Who Cooper catches first and last has yet to be dermined.

Bellefonte started Tara Baney and Stevi Confer closed against Hollidaysburg. Rachel Bernier also was available.

Kohlhepp has a history of success with using multiple arms in the postseason. The 2010 title team used three different pitchers in its run to the PIAA crown.

“We really believe it comes to a staff approach,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it works for us.”

Who they will be throwing to is a bit of a mystery, since Bellefonte did not get an opportunity to scout Johnstown.

Lexi Lindrose and Tara Bicko have some pop for the Lady Trojans.

“I only know really what we’ve seen from them in the past,” Kohlhepp said. “They’re a team that hustles, doesn’t give up. They should have a solid lineup, hitting-wise. … We’ll go for 21 outs and see who is better at the end of it all.”