CLAYSBURG - Lydia Fleck's two-run home run in the bottom of the second inning blew the game wide open for the Claysburg-Kimmel softball team.
With two outs, Fleck, who went 3-for-4, smacked the ball to the gap between center and right field to give the Lady Bulldogs (20-1) a five-run lead, and they beat Juniata Valley, 12-3, in the semifinals of the District 6 Class A tournament. They advanced to the championship game next Thursday at Legion Park in Hollidaysburg against Ligonier Valley, which defeated Conemaugh Valley, 10-0, in six innings.
"It started things off," Fleck said of her homer. "I needed it for myself because I've been down, and it sort of picked my confidence back up a little bit, too. But for the team, I think it was good all around."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Ronette Claar connects with the ball for Claysburg-Kimmel.
After three Lady Hornets were retired in the top of the third, Claysburg got more runs in the bottom half of the inning.
"We jumped on them early again," Claysburg coach Mike Barbarini said. "We hit the ball well for the first couple of innings. Again, that's what we stress - get ahead of them and we can play a little looser. We got more aggressive on the bases, and they started throwing the ball around and making some errors."
The first two Lady Bulldog hitters reached on errors to lead off the third inning. Samantha Barnes drove in Kalee Harten with a double to left field. After the first out, Kelsey Ickes drove the ball to left field, scoring Courtlin Holland.
Ronette Claar, who went 3-for-4, and Fleck each got on base with two outs and later scored on a Christi Mauk triple to deep center field. Harten drove in the final run of the inning, giving Claysburg a 12-0 lead. The first 10 batters were held hitless by Claar, who registered 14 strikeouts.
Juniata Valley (12-7) didn't go away. The Lady Hornets' Jenna Morgan hit a single, and with two outs, Desiree Endres singled to right field, scoring Morgan for Juniata Valley's first run. Maura Belinda then hit a two-run home run to right field to cut her team's deficit to nine.
"I wasn't too happy," Juniata Valley coach Tony Payne said about his team's performance. "You can't get in a hole like that against Claysburg and think that it's going to be an easy battle back. We just couldn't get it going, and that's been our M.O. We wait three or four innings and then start to get going, but against a team like this, you can't do that. I wish [Claysburg] luck. I look for them to win the District 6 title."
Claysburg's coach feels good about how his team performed Wednesday.
"The girls started hitting the ball well," Barbarini said. "[Tuesday], I was a little concerned, but they played harder today. They [Ligonier Valley] have very good pitching, they have a solid team behind them, so I'd like to face them because they are the better team."
JUNIATA VALLEY (3): Walker c 300, Morgan ss 311, Carper p 300, Endres cf 311, Belinda 1b 311, Briggs 3b 300, Taylor lf 300, Zinobile rf 200, Grugan 2b 200. Totals -25 3 3.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (12): Claar p 423, Fleck 2b 433, Mauk ss 421, Harten c 422, Holland 3b 411, Barnes rf 411, Glass dp 301, Ickes 1b 311, Brumbaugh 300, Burk lf 000, Long cr 010. Totals -33 12 13.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Juniata Valley000 300 0-3 3 3
Claysburg-Kimmel327 000 X-12 13 1
E-Walker, Grugan, Briggs; Fleck. 2B-Barnes. 3B-Mauk. HR - Belinda; Fleck. RBI-Endres, Belinda 2; Claar, Fleck 2, Mauk 2, Harten 2, Holland, Barnes, Ickes. WP-Claar. LP-Carper. SO-Carper 5; Claar 14.
Records: Juniata Valley (12-7); Claysburg-Kimmel (20-1).