By Todd Irwin
SHIPPENSBURG - Given the magnitude of the game and that she and her teammates had to wait on the field in the rain as groundskeepers tended to Robb Field, Claysburg-Kimmel freshman pitcher Ronette Claar should have been flustered.
Ronette Claar faced just 21 batters in getting the Lady Bulldogs to the state semifinals
She certainly wasn't, and for good reason: She was sending every Greenwood batter back to the dry comfort of their dugout.
Claar continued her remarkable season by throwing a perfect game in the Lady Bulldogs' 7-0 PIAA Class A quarterfinal win Thursday. Twenty-one batters up, 21 down, including eight by strikeout, and none of the other outs left the infield.
"I thought it was going to be really, really tough, but we went out there and played our hardest," Claar said. "I had a good defense behind me. [The rain] may have slowed the ball down, but that was it. We didn't play that much in the rain."
"She pitched fantastic," C-K coach Mike Barbarini said. "They didn't hit anything. They didn't even hit a line drive to anybody. My biggest concern was that the ball would be wet, and she throws so hard she might walk some girls today.
Claar said she didn't even know she had a perfect game until afterward. She only looked at the scoreboard, she said, to see what the count on the batter was.
"I don't think she's fazed because she's so young," Barbarini said. "She has confidence in the team behind her, and she has confidence that we'll score her runs."
"She was a great pitcher," Greenwood coach Krista Pontius said. "It's not that we haven't seen anybody better than her, but we haven't for the last couple of weeks. That makes a difference."
The Lady Bulldogs hiked their record to 23-3 and will get Old Forge, a 1-0 winner over Bristol, in the state semifinals on Monday at a site and time to be determined.
C-K provided plenty off offensive support in a five-run fifth inning that included four straight hits. Three of those hits were extra base hits, including back-to-back run-scoring triples by Krysta Gerheim, who went 3-for-4, and Christi Mauk.
Playing in a continuous rain that caused the game time to suddenly be moved up a half hour, C-K struck first in the third inning with a couple runs off of Jessie Schoonover.
Mackenzie Musselman tripled to the gap in left-center and scored on Lydia Fleck squeeze bunt. Fleck, who reached on an error on the play, eventually scored on Gerheim's single to left field.
"The first time through the lineup was hard for us because we just needed to catch on," Claar said. "The second time through, we really caught on and we really hit our hardest.
That was all the wiggle room Claar would need as the Lady Wildcats tried to catch up to her fast ball and an occasional tantalizing curveball. After the first nine batters were retired, Greenwood (11-10) resorted to bunting. The result was a pop-up to Claar and another to third baseman Mauk. The short game was thrown out after that.
"I knew they were going to go away [from bunting] after they popped two up," Claar said. "So, apparently, it wasn't their best day bunting."
"We were just trying to see how they would handle the smallball," Pontius said, "but the field was slowing us down, and it just didn't seem like that was going to happen."
Fleck began the fifth-inning onslaught by stroking a one-out single to center. Claar, who went 2-for-4, followed with a double to right that chased Fleck home. Gerheim pounded a gapper to right, and when the relay throw was mishandled, she came the whole way around to score.
Mauk's triple chased Schoonover from the pitching circle, but reliever Amber Heggenstaller uncorked a wild pitch to score Mauk. A throwing error later in the frame scored Kalee Harten.
"We made an adjustment. We moved closer to the plate," Barbarini said. "I told them if they see anything outside, just let it go and make them pitch us inside."
Claar nearly lost the perfect game on the last out of the game. First baseman Meghan Cox had to range to her right to field an Amanda Brong ground ball, but her flip to second baseman Fleck covering first was in time for the out.
"We practiced that this week, where the pitcher covers first base," Barbarini said. "Ronette was headed over that way, but Lydia got there first."
"At that point, we're just praying 'Please get that one.' " Pontius said.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (7): Claar p 412, Gerheim rf 413, Mauk 3b 411, Harten ss 310, Negley c 300, Ritchey ph 000, Williams dp 300, Strayer lf 300, Musselman cf 211, Barnes ph 100, Fleck 2b 221, Cox 1b 000. Totals - 29-7-8.
GREENWOOD (0): Shaffer 3b 300, Kessler c 200, Kiner ph 100, Brong 2b 300, Heggenstaller 1b-p 200, Pellman ss 200, Seigel lf 200, Range cf 200, Schoonover p-1b 100, Lower ph 100, Shuman dp-rf 200, HIbolt rf 000, Morrow rf 000. Totals - 21-0-0.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Claysburg-Kimmel002 050 0-7 8 0
Greenwood000 000 0-0 0 5
E-Kessler 2, Brong, Heggenstaller, Pellman. 2B-Claar. 3B-Gerheim, Mauk, Musselman. RBI-Gerheim 2, Claar, Fleck. SAC-Fleck. SB-Gerheim, Fleck. CS-Claar, Ritchey (by Kessler). LOB-Claysburg-Kimmel 7.
Records: Claysburg-Kimmel (23-3); Greenwood (11-10)