EBENSBURG - It may have been 12 days since the Central Cambria softball team last stepped on the field in game action, but it certainly didn't look like it Tuesday afternoon.
The Lady Devils scored all but one of their runs on home runs, played quality defense and got a strong pitching performance from Jordan Makin, as they eliminated Central with a 7-3 victory in the District 6 Class AA quarterfinals.
But Central Cambria coach Pat Stock still was a little worried as the game played on.
"My biggest concern - I was so afraid that our bats wouldn't be [there]," Stock said. "That's our strength. We can hit the ball. This was almost like the first game of the season [because of the layoff].
"We hit pretty well, it at least looked like that, but we can hit better than we did today. Two or three of the girls never got it going today that are good hitters."
Regardless, the Lady Devils (12-1) managed to get to Central pitcher Kylie Gunnett enough.
In the bottom of the first, Taylor Swatsworth drove a ground-rule double to left-center. Two batters later, Lindsay Beyer belted a two-out, two-run homer to left on the first pitch she saw.
Kacey Haluska led off the home-half of the fifth inning with a home run to center, and Ali Vogatsky blasted a three-run shot to left in the sixth.
"We got some key hits today," Stock said. "The two-out homer in the first inning, and then the three-run bomb in the sixth that literally put the game out of reach - those two were just major, clutch hits for us."
"They're used to playing on this field and it shows," Central coach Dale Walters said. "You hit the ball up in the air here and it will go. Some of the pitches they hit were good pitches. They're a good-hitting team. We knew that coming in, though. We knew we were going to have to score 10 runs to beat them."
But the Lady Dragons (15-7), who normally are a strong-hitting team, were only able to manufacture three runs on four hits.
Kate Blattenberger, who was 3-for-3, drove in two of those runs with a single in the top of the seventh inning, when the game was essentially out of reach.
"I don't know what happened today," Walters admitted. "We've been playing really well, we've been hitting really well. To their credit, they made all of the plays. They didn't give an opening."
Makin, meanwhile, struck out three and yielded a season-high three walks. Going into the game, she had accumlated only eight walks in 11 appearances.
"The beauty of her as a pitcher is that she never tries to do what she can't do," Stock said of Makin. "She does what she does do well - keep the ball in the zone, move it around, change speed, don't overthrow. She's so calm. She doesn't get excited."
Central Cambria next hosts Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference rival Penn Cambria on Thursday in the semifinals.
"They're tough," Stock said. "We were lucky to beat them the first time. We do have the advantage of playing on our home field. That's going to help us a little bit."
The Lady Devils and Lady Panthers had identical conference records, but Central Cambria claimed the league title with the head-to-head victory.
The two teams were set to decide the championship on the field with a regular-season contest, but the make-shift title game was cancelled due to rain.
"I'll take it any way I can get it, but you always rather win it on the field," Stock said of winning the LHAC crown. "But I know that if I was the Penn Cambria coach right now, I would be saying, 'Hey, here's our chance to prove we could have won the league.'
"We're going to be facing a team that's ready to go on Thursday. I'm looking forward to that game, and I'm sure they are."
CENTRAL (3): Walters 2b 300, Garman c 300, Smith 3b 300, Ayers 1b 200, McKnight ss 311, Gunnett p 210, Snyder dp 210, Mock lf 000, Blattenberger cf 303, Barnes rf 300. Totals 24-3-4.
CENTRAL CAMBRIA (7): Lorditch cf 300, Swatsworth ss 312, James c 310, Beyer 1b 322, Vogatsky 3b 311, Espe lf 200, Howell ph 100, Haluska rf 311, Forcellini dp 302, Farabaugh cr 010, Makin p 000, Magley 2b 300. Totals 27-7-8.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Central000 010 2 - 3 4 2
Central Cambria200 023 x - 7 8 0
E-Mock, McKnight. DP-Central Cambria 1. LOB-Central 3, Central Cambria 2. 2B-Swatsworth. HR-Beyer, Haluska, Vogatsky. RBI-Blattenberger 2, Barnes, Swatsworth, Beyer 2, Vogatsky 3, Haluska. CS-Swatsworth.
Central-Gunnett (L), 6.0 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO.
Central Cambria-Makin (W), 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO.
Records: Central (15-7); Central Cambria (12-1).