BELLWOOD - When Sara Davinsizer snagged a routine fly ball for the final out of Bellwood-Antis' District 6 Class A softball playoff game, the Lady Blue Devils celebrated as if they had just won the district championship.
That was probably because in Bellwood, topping Juniata Valley 3-2 in a first round high school softball contest, is just about as big.
"It meant the world to me to win the game," Bellwood pitcher Taylor Payne said. "It means everything. Right now Bellwood is making history in something we haven't done in a long time."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Bellwood-Antis third baseman Jayme Fraser tags out Juniata Valley’s Olivia Stewart.
The Lady Blue Devils qualified for the playoffs a year ago after struggling mightily over much of the past decade but lost to Juniata Valley, 5-2, and finished 10-10. This year, Bellwood took the next step, clinching a winning record in its final regular season game, a 14-2 win over Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic. Thursday, Bellwood avenged its playoff loss when Payne beat a throw home to break a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning with the bases loaded on Lauren Snyder's grounder.
"I don't know when the last time Bellwood won a playoff game was," Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Payne said. "It's been a long time since we've been in the district playoffs more than one game.
"This is a big senior class, and I'm extremely proud of them. They've hustled, they've worked and they've done what they needed to do to keep going."
Juniata Valley and Bellwood split the season series, with the Lady Hornets winning in Bellwood and the Lady Blue Devils picking up a victory in Alexandria. Thursday's game was scheduled to be played in Alexandria, because Juniata Valley was the No. 8 seed and B-A was No. 9, but a wet field forced the change to Bellwood.
"We won up here, and they won down there so it didn't really upset us that the game was moved," Juniata Valley coach Tony Payne said. "We had some issues with the prom coming up Saturday, and our field was not going to be playable. I don't think it really mattered."
The Lady Hornets took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Kerrigan Ammerman singled, stole second and came home on an Abbie Zinobile RBI single.
Bellwood-Antis answered in the fourth. Emily Nagle opened the frame with a single and went to second when Payne reached on an error. Davinsizer and Rochelle Donahue followed with back-to-back RBI singles to give B-A a 2-1 lead.
"Every game has a play that changes the course of the game," Jim Payne said. "Sara's single to score the first run showed the girls we could play with them, and in my opinion, that was probably the play of the game."
Juniata Valley tied the game in the fifth when Zinobile walked to lead off the inning and Olivia Stewart hit an RBI double. However, Stewart was thrown out at third trying to advance on the throw and the Lady Hornets didn't score again.
"They got an extra out that was just given to them," Tony Payne said. "That hurts a little bit. She probably thought they were going home with it, but they cut it and she was out. That wasn't the make-or-break point of the game though."
That point came in the bottom of the sixth inning. Cecelin Grugan reached on an error and eventually made it all the way to third before Payne got Zinobile to ground out and end the inning.
Payne's effort overshadowed her counterpart in the pitching circle, Heather Carper. The Juniata Valley junior allowed just five hits and one earned run while going the distance.
"Heather's a great competitor," Tony Payne said. "She throws hard every single pitch. She's the kind of girl you want to build your team around."
The Lady Blue Devils will now travel to No. 1 seeded Portage on Monday.
"Taylor pitched big-time in a big game," Jim Payne said. "We're going to hope she can keep it up for us and keep going. She works hard for us, and she deserves everything good that happens to her."
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (3): Hamer ss 400, McVicker 2b 400, Nagle dp 401, Shawley 1b 400, Payne p 320, Davinsizer 302, Donahue c 202, McCaulley cr 000, Snyder rf 300, Fraser 3b 300, Kovach lf-pr 010. Totals - 30-3-5.
JUNIATA VALLEY (2): Wallace c 400, Grugan 3b 301, Carper p 300, Ammerman ss 211, Enders 2b 300, Zinobile cf 211, Stewart 1b 301, Grove cf 300, Beam lf 100, Ayers ph 202. Totals -26-2-6.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Bellwood-Antis000 201 0-3 5 1
Juniata Valley010 010 0-2 6 2
E-Hamer, Ammerman, Grugan. 2B-Stewart. RBI-Davinsizer, Donahue, Snyder, Zinobile, Stewart. WP-Payne. LP-Carper. SO-Payne 8, Carper 3. BB-Payne 2, Carper 1.
Umpires: Tracy Cornelius (HP), Paul Kozak, Craig Yohn
Records: Bellwood-Antis (12-9); Juniata Valley (7-10).