It was all State College softball could talk about before the season.
“Ever since the first day of winter ball workouts, we said, ‘We’re going to Penn State. We’re going to Penn State,’ ” senior pitcher Hannah Shields said.
It was the goal from the get-go.
Now, playing for the District 6 Class AAAA title is a goal fulfilled.
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Shields was lights out from the circle, and the Lady Little Lions were deadly at the plate, as State College crushed Central Mountain 13-2 on Wednesday in the district semifinals.
The No. 3 seed State College (11-8) will face No. 1 Mifflin County (16-5) on June 1 at Penn State’s Beard Field. Mifflin County edged Altoona 1-0 on Wednesday.
As State College’s ace, Shields will more than likely get the ball against the Lady Huskies, especially after her performance against Central Mountain.
Shields had a no-hitter through five frames and finished the day with a complete-game three-hitter. She struck out five and allowed only one earned run.
For the senior, she’s wanted nothing more than to be in the position she was in Wednesday night.
“I’ve been dreaming about playing at Penn State for the district championship since I was a freshman,” Shields said. “I finally get my chance to pitch (in the semifinals), and I knew I was going to go as hard as I could and as long as I could.”
State College coach Mike Harper thought Shields did well sawing off hitters on the inside and locating pitches on the outer part of the plate.
The Lady Little Lions’ backstop agreed.
“Her screw and curveballs, on both sides of the plate, were working really well,” State College catcher Avery Cymbor said.
Facing only one batter over the minimum through three innings, Shields was in rhythm.
Then the top of the fourth came along.
When a pitcher has a no-hitter in the works, getting back out to the circle as fast as possible is normally preferred.
But Shields was okay with waiting — and so was the rest of her team.
State College’s offense erupted in the fourth, turning a precious two-run lead into a domineering 7-0 advantage.
State College loaded the bases with no outs, and pushed its first run of the inning with an Alyssa Shedlock walk. Next up was Cymbor, and she stayed hot. After a pair of earlier singles, the junior doubled to the left-center gap to score two. Freshman second baseman Addie Wasikonis doubled, plating another two.
Tacking on a two-run single in the seventh, Wasikonis finished with a team-high five RBIs on the evening. Cymbor contributed three RBIs.
“Hitting is contagious,” Cymbor said with a smile.
Harper loved that his team had seven runs on the board after four innings because he knew Central Mountain’s potential. The Lady Wildcats scored 10 or more runs in seven of their 16 wins this year.
“They’re like a powder keg,” Harper said. “They can blow up and score runs pretty quickly.”
But Shields was resolute, and except for three consecutive singles in the sixth inning, the senior was flawless.
Harper is hoping to get the same pairing of pitching and hitting in the district final against Mifflin County, a team that defeated State College twice this year — 3-2 on April 19, and 7-2 on May 12.
Plus, the Lady Huskies are no strangers to championships. Mifflin County won the district title at Penn State in 2013 and 2015.
That doesn’t faze Harper.
“They’ve been there,” Harper said of Mifflin County. “But our kids are excited. They’re excited to get there.”