Before every game, an assistant coach reminds Bellefonte softball star Tara Baney to not let juicy pitches go by.
In their words, to always “hit the fatties.”
Baney heeded her coach’s advice on Monday.
The junior belted a solo home run in the game’s first at-bat, and later added what proved to be a game-winning, RBI single in Bellefonte’s 3-2 win over Mt. Pleasant in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs at North Allegheny High School.
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After edging the District 7 champion, the Lady Red Raiders (17-5) advance to the quarterfinals to face Yough on Thursday. Yough is the No. 3 seed out of District 7, and handled General McLane 11-1 on Monday.
Baney was also the winning pitcher, allowing two runs on five hits with six strikeouts in seven innings of work.
But before she took the circle, the junior made quick work in the batter’s box.
Baney connected with the second pitch of the game, a ball left up in the zone by Mount Pleasant starter Meadow Uncapher.
Both the center and right fielders gave a brief chase before realizing they didn’t have a shot. Baney’s blast cleared the wall with ease.
“I just went up to the plate and hit the fattie,” Baney said with a smile. “And it just went.”
While Baney’s blast gave Bellefonte a shot of adrenaline, the Lady Red Raiders didn’t do much else at the plate until later in the game.
Instead, Mount Pleasant got back into it in the third inning. An RBI base knock by Uncapher tied the game at 1-1.
Baney didn’t let it faze her, finishing out the inning with a strikeout and punching the Lady Vikings out 1-2-3 the next frame.
Mt. Pleasant coach Lauren Shaheen was impressed with Bellefonte’s ace.
“She was accurate,” said Shaheen, a former pitcher at California (Pa.). “She was able to work an off-speed and a riser, and it kept us off-balanced.”
After Baney’s swift fourth inning, Bellefonte responded with its sticks.
Taylore Maurer doubled to the left-center gap, and then scored on a double by No. 9 hitter Jordan Rockey.
On the next pitch, Baney laced a liner up the middle to plate Rockey and give the Lady Red Raiders a 3-1 advantage.
Bellefonte coach Fred Caldwell was pleased to see everyone, especially the bottom half of the order, contribute.
“Up and down the order, they were coming through,” Caldwell said. “And that’s what we want.”
Mt. Pleasant scored a run in the sixth inning on a questionable call at the plate after a pickle, but Baney got out of the jam and then ousted the Lady Vikings’ top of the order in the seventh.
After a strikeout, groundout and groundout, Bellefonte was moving on.
Baney reflected a bit after the celebration died down, thinking about all the hours spent in the summer, fall and winter preparing for the season.
“We just really want to be in this situation right now,” the junior said.
Shaheen couldn’t help but give props to the Lady Red Raiders.
“When you get to this level, you’re facing other champions,” the Mt. Pleasant coach said. “You have to expect good defense, good offense, and that’s exactly what we saw. Hats off to them.”
And Caldwell, unsure at the time of who his team would face in the second round, was just soaking in the moment.
After the Lady Red Raiders huddled up in the outfield, the team waved to family and took pictures on the field.
Caldwell looked on, smiling cheek to cheek.
“Overall it was a great performance,” Caldwell said. “We’re looking forward to Thursday.”