Rep after rep, pitch after pitch, Yough practiced.
For 2 1/2 hours.
The Lady Cougars knew after scouting Bellefonte ace Tara Baney that owning the inside part of the plate would be crucial.
They couldn’t let the junior hurler jam them. And the practice paid off.
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Yough did what so many teams have tried and failed to do this year — rough up Baney. The Lady Cougars throttled Bellefonte 13-3 in six innings in the PIAA Class AAA softball quarterfinals on Thursday at Mount Aloysius College.
The No. 3 seed out of District 7, Yough (20-3) advances to face Donegal in the state semifinals, while the season for Bellefonte (17-6) is over.
Lady Red Raiders coach Fred Caldwell had to give Yough props.
“They made adjustments,” the second-year coach said. “They crowded the plate, then as (Baney) made her motion, they backed off the plate a little to take her inside pitching out... They’re very well-coached, and did a great job.”
Lady Cougars starter Macy Mularski earned the win. She struck out six and allowed seven hits over six innings.
Baney, the losing pitcher, finished with a scoreline to which she’s fairly unaccustomed. The junior, who had two no-hitters and countless double-digit strikeout performances this year, gave up 11 earned runs on 13 hits while recording only one punchout.
“We kind of knew what she was going to throw,” Yough coach Art Harvey said. “We prepared really well for it.”
That was obvious from the get-go.
After pushing across two runs in the bottom of the first, the Lady Cougars exploded for a six-run second inning. A trio of RBI singles bloated the lead, and a three-run triple by Alona Sleith busted it open to 8-0.
“It just set the tone,” Sleith said of her three-bagger. “I love the inside pitches, so it was nice.”
But it wasn’t so nice for the Lady Red Raiders.
Down eight runs after two innings, Caldwell was looking for little victories.
“At that point, we’re just trying to win an inning,” the coach said.
Even that proved too difficult to manage against the relentless Yough offense.
In the top of the third inning, Baney tripled and later scored Bellefonte’s first run on a wild pitch. In the bottom half of the frame, Yough snagged a run.
It happened again in the fourth. Bellefonte scored two runs on a single by Jordan Rockey, but then the Lady Cougars evened it out with two of their own.
“If they score, we score,” Harvey said of his team’s mentality. “That’s what you’ve got to do because that’s a good hitting team with a good pitcher, so they can come back any time. You just have to keep pounding them down.”
And while Bellefonte couldn’t keep pace, Yough continued to hit, scoring one in the fifth and another in the sixth to put the mercy-rule in effect.
It was the first time this year Bellefonte had been on the wrong side of a game ended early.
After a season filled with highlights — namely, a District 6 title and a win in the state playoffs — it wasn’t an ideal finish to Bellefonte’s year.
For Caldwell, there wasn’t much to say.
“We didn’t really get it together,” the coach said. “But hey, you’ve got to tip your cap to Yough. ... It was their day, not ours.”