It’s a rare thing for the winner of a 60-foot sprint to determine the outcome of a softball game.
But because Bellefonte pitcher Tara Baney beat Bellwood-Antis pinch-runner Myranda Mamat to third base and tagged her out in the third inning, it allowed the Lady Raiders to go on and beat the Lady Blue Devils 2-1 in nine innings to win the District 6 Class AAA softball championship Wednesday at Penn State’s Beard Field.
Here’s what happened.
Baney walked Jestelyn Heaton to open the third inning and Mamat pinch ran for her. Sarah Knisely then dropped a bunt in front of the plate and Baney, catcher Jenna Ault and third baseman Rianna Trexler all converged on the ball. Baney won the scrum and noticed Mamat rounding second and heading for third. Baney took off for third and got there in time to tag Mamat out in what proved to be a pivotal play in a game that wore all the trappings of a classic. Losing pitcher Taylor Shildt followed with a triple into the right-center gap that scored Knisely and would have scored Mamat had she won the race to third.
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“We noticed on the pitch before that they didn’t have anyone covering third on the bunt,” said Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Payle. “But this time we didn’t get as good a jump as we had hoped and she didn’t get to third.”
Mamat went in standing up instead of sliding, allowing Baney to make an easier tag.
“I ran as fast as I could,” said Baney, who got the win in the circle while striking out 11. “I gave it my all to get there and tag out that runner. I kind of saw her out rounding second out of the corner of my eye and I had to take off as fast as I could.”
“That was a huge play,” said Raider coach Fred Caldwell. “We’re fortunate Tara is very fast and did a good job of getting back on that play.”
Bellefonte matched the Bellwood-Antis run in the fourth when, with one out, it strung together three straight singles. With one out Lexi Wetzler singled to short left, Trexler singled to left and Samantha Gates blooped a single just over second base to score Wetzler.
The Lady Blue Devils mounted threats in the sixth, leaving runners at first and second, and again in the eighth when they stranded runners at first and third. But both times Baney refused to yield, getting out of the sixth on a popup to second and out of the eighth on a comebacker for the third out.
At the same time Shildt was controlling the Bellefonte bats until a bizarre ninth inning.
Wetzler reached on a walk to start the ninth and moved to second on a sacrifice by Trexler. An error on Gates’ grounder to short put Wetzler on third and Gates immediately stole second.
Then it got interesting.
Angela Capparelle popped up toward third and the ball dropped in front of Edyn Convery, who appeared to lose it in the sun, allowing Wetzler to score and touching off a celebration in the Bellefonte dugout. But the umpires ruled the ball had hit the ground in front of the third base bag and kicked foul, making it a strike and sending Wetzler back to third. But then Shildt, who had walked only two batters and struck out eight, uncorked a wild pitch allowing Wetzler to score the game-winner.
“It was a fastball that stuck in my hand and went up a little,’’ Shildt said of the wild pitch. “Caroline (Showalter, Bellwood-Antis’s catcher) wasn’t ready for it.”
“I think Lexi should get credit for two runs scored,’’ kidded Caldwell. “When she came across the first time we’re thinking we won and our girls were celebrating. Then the umpires made their ruling and Bellwood’s girls were celebrating. We just had to stay focused. We told the girls they could still win the game.”
And they did as Wetzler scrambled in with the deciding run.
“Lexi is one of our smartest base-runners,” Caldwell said.
Until the Bellwood-Antis defense cracked in the ninth, the game was a classic pitcher’s duel between Baney and Shildt.
“Tara has been fantastic all year. I’ve lost track but I think she has at least 160 strikeouts and she’s hitting over .400. She’s just solid all the way around,” said Caldwell, who didn’t mention his pitcher’s 60-foot dash speed.