When two Centre County softball teams meet each other on the softball field, you might just as well throw the record books out the window.
When Bellefonte and Penns Valley tangled earlier this season, the Lady Red Raiders rolled to a mercy rule victory.
In the rematch Tuesday afternoon, it was a different story.
Tara Baney pitched a one-hitter, and beleted a home run, as the two teams battled each other tooth-and-nail before the Lady Raiders escaped with a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Lady Rams.
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It was a far cry from a 10-0 Bellefonte win in late March.
“We knew coming over here that Penns Valley was a lot better than they showed in the first game,” Bellefonte assistant coach John Wetzler said. “They threw the ball around and made a lot of errors in that game that helped us score a bunch of runs. That took them out of the game early on. We know how (Penns Valley coach) Donny Lucas and his staff prepare his team and we have a lot of respect for them. We were glad to get out of here with a win.”
Lucas alluded to the possibility of his team’s youth catching up with them.
“I think our youth shines through once in a while,” Lucas said. “We struggled at the plate tonight and that has been the case for us in many games this season. But give her (Baney) a lot of credit because she pitched a great game.”
The big story of the day for Bellefonte (7-2) was the pitching and hitting of Baney. At the plate, she went 2-for-3 with a home run and single, while in the circle, the righthander struck out 12 and walked just one.
“Tara Baney was just awesome in the circle,” Wetzler said. “Some of our other kids made some big plays, but she (Baney) was the big gun for us today. That pop fly caught by Rachael Bernier (in the seventh inning) was big for us because the wind over here makes it difficult to handle those sometimes. Again, our kids played a very solid game and we are just glad to get out of here with a win.”
Baney gave the Lady Raiders the lead when she picked on the first offering from Abigail Thom and deposited it over the leftfield fence for a solo home run in the first inning.
Bellefonte made it 2-0 with a run in the fifth when Stevi Confer walked, stole second, was advanced to third on a bunt single by Angela Capparella and scored on an RBI groundout by Jenna Ault.
With Baney in cruise control in the circle, the lead held up until the sixth.
After stranding runners on first and second in the fourth inning, the Lady Rams made the most of their second scoring opportunity in the sixth when Harley Hess walked, was sacrificed to second by Alicia Houser, with Houser safe at first on a Bellefonte error. Hess raced to third on the error and later scampered home with the Lady Rams’ only run of the game.
Not to let the win escape, Baney rose to the occasion to shut down the Lady Rams 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh.
“She closed things out for us and (catcher) Jenna Ault called a great game,” Wetzler said. “We let her call the game and she did a great job. I am just glad we had Tara on our side today, but I thought they did a great thing by using three different pitchers. Every couple of innings you had a different pitcher you had to face and all three of them did a nice job.”
While Wetzler used Baney all the way, Lucas and his staff employed the tandem approach of pitching, using three different pitchers in the game.
Thom started, Hess came on in the fourth and Emalee Kubalak closed it out by working the final two innings.
“Our plan was to use three pitchers and we got a chance to do that,“ said Lucas. “We thought that against a team the quality of Bellefonte we might be able to keep them off balance and for the most part, I think it worked. How long each of them would work was determined by what the situation was.”
Part of the struggle at the plate by the Lady Rams shows up in situational hitting. With two runners on in the fourth and the tying run at third base in the sixth, the Lady Rams just couldn’t come up with the big hit when they needed it.
“I think the second and third time through the lineup made a difference for us,” Lucas said. “This game is such a funny thing. Sometimes a pitcher who is very strong can intimidate the younger batters early before the hitters can feel a little more comfortable at the plate. I thought we had some opportunities within the game to make things happen, but we just couldn’t get it done.”