From Mirror reports
CRESSON - A fortuitously-located little stone played a big role in Penn Cambria High School winning its quarterfinal-round District 6 Class AA softball playoff game on Monday.
To start off the bottom of the sixth inning against Richland, the Lady Panthers' Emily Roberts placed a bunt down the third base line. The ball appeared ready to harmlessly roll foul. But a rock bumped it back toward fair territory, giving Roberts the opportunity to leg out a single.
Penn Cambria's previously-dormant offense then put together its lone rally of the afternoon. The Lady Panthers tapped down three more bunts in a row - two sacrifices and another single by leadoff hitter Taylor Freeman - and later capitalized upon a mental lapse and physical error by the Lady Rams.
Roberts and Freeman eventually scored the Lady Panthers' only runs during their 2-1 victory at Penn Cambria High School.
And all of it started with a ball bumping into a pebble.
"I think it hit a rock and came back in," said Penn Cambria coach John Casale. "It just stopped right on the line. I've got to thank the grounds crew for that rock."
Penn Cambria purposely turned to the small-ball approach after Richland pitcher Nicki Mihalik held the home team without a hit through five innings. Casale's club wanted to pressure third baseman Susanna Bacci, who entered the game when starting third baseman Sarah Szelong left after getting hit in the hand during an at-bat.
"Our idea was to maybe work on third because we knew that girl came in the game late, so we thought maybe that would be an advantage, so we went with that," Casale said. "We worked that. We know, late in the game, when you start bunting, things start to tighten up. The pressure is on."
The Lady Rams almost ended the rally when, with two outs, Mihalik got pitcher Kate Reese to hit a routine grounder. But, instead of getting the easy force out at first, Bacci threw toward home in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent Roberts from scoring. Freeman then reached home when Mihalik committed a fielding error.
"It should have been a 1-0 ballgame. Ain't no doubt in my mind. At third base, two outs, get the out at first base and you're out of the inning. We would have won that 1-0. Then the one went off the pitcher's glove and they scored another one. That never should have happened," Richland coach Ed Haberkorn said after his team's season ended at 11-3.
Penn Cambria's sixth-inning rally provided Reese all of the offensive support she needed.
The senior right-hander, who has committed to Point Park University, did not allow any earned runs. Richland got its lone run in the fourth when Alexa Hoover singled, stole second, reached third on a fielder's choice and came home thanks to a two-out passed ball.
Reese finished with 13 strikeouts.
Richland (1): Hudak 2b 300, Hoover cf 311, Mihalik p 301, Szelong 3b, 1b 300, Snopko rf 200, Dona 1b 100, Bacci 3b 100, Tessari ss 300, Koshute dp 100, Syfert c 000, Brant lf 200. Totals-22-1-2.
Penn Cambria (2): Freeman cf 311, A. Reese ss 200, K. Reese p 200, Yusko 1b 300, Toth c 300, Smith rf 200, Kleman lf 200, E. Roberts 2b 211, S. Roberts 3b 100. Totals-20-2-2.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Richland000 100 0 1 2 1
Penn Cambria000 002 x 2 2 1
E Mihalik, K. Reese. LP Mihalik (7 SO, 1 BB). WP K. Reese (13 SO, 1 BB). RBI-Reese.