Fastball after fastball screamed out of Bellefonte pitcher Tara Baney’s hand on Wednesday afternoon, slapping into catcher Taylore Maurer’s padded black mitt again and again as the square-shouldered umpire barked out strike after strike.
Baney’s opponents simply couldn’t keep up.
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Baney threw a complete game and struck out 12 batters in the Lady Raiders’ 8-0 win over Huntingdon in the District 6 Class AAA semifinals at O’Leary Fields. She gave up only four hits and got behind in her pitch count only twice.
And then there was her bat.
The junior hit a home run over the right field fence in the first inning off Bearcats pitcher Catherine Miller, hit a single in the third inning and homered again in the fifth, this time as the frame’s leadoff hitter. She was intentionally walked in her final at-bat, which led to another run after Rianna Trexler hit a sacrifice fly with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth.
“Tara has just done really well all season,” coach Fred Caldwell said. “Her pitching has been just phenomenal, her hitting, she started out the season really strong and then she kind of had a mid-section where she eased up a little bit. I think we worked really hard in the last few practices on hitting, and it paid off. She’s hitting the ball really well.”
Big third and sixth innings from the Lady Raiders helped them cruise through the semifinal matchup.
In the bottom of the third, Samantha Gates hit a two-out double that sent in two runners, and Angela Capparelle followed up with an RBI double of her own for the three-run frame.
Baney struck out the Huntingdon batters in order to bring back out the Bellefonte offense in the fourth. She then hit a sizzling shallow home run over the left-field fence in the fifth, much to the delight of the home crowd — who began placing playful bets on whether the ace could homer a third time or would be intentionally walked.
“It felt amazing,” Baney said of her first home run of the game, and her teammates’ offensive response. “It felt like we got something started, got a rally going and we didn’t stop there.”
In the sixth inning, Bellefonte’s Jordan Rockey hit a single and Rachel Bernier was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second. The Lady Raiders sent them both into home after a fielder’s choice throwing error by Miller, and Trexler’s sacrifice fly punctuated scoring in the frame.
The Bearcats tried to rally in the seventh, but could only squeak a single past Baney — who fittingly sealed the win with a three-fastball strikeout.
Bellefonte now gets a rematch Bellwood-Antis for the District 6 Class AAA title, which will be held June 1 at Penn State’s Beard Field.
“We played ‘em last year in the district finals and lost,” said Caldwell, grinning. “And this year we’re looking forward to a chance to change that.”