CLAYSBURG - Claysburg-Kimmel advanced to the semifinals of the PIAA Class A state softball playoffs in 2010, and there's no telling how far the Lady Bulldogs will go this spring if ace pitcher Ronette Claar continues to improve.
Claar, who did not pitch for two weeks because of arm problems, returned to the circle on Monday and led C-K to a 3-0 win over Conemaugh Valley.
Claar got the call against Northern Cambria in the District 6 Class A semifinals Thursday and turned in another solid effort as the Bulldogs scored a 9-3 victory.
In the win over Conemaugh Valley, Claar struck out eight of the first nine batters and finished with 12 Ks in a seven-inning, route-going performance.
The junior standout was also dominant Thursday, again whiffing eight of the first nine batters and finishing with 15 strikeouts before leaving with two outs in the sixth inning.
"I had a little bit of soreness," Claar said, "but I was fine."
C-K coach Mike Barbarini lifted Claar before a 20-minute lightning delay. When play resumed, Kelsey Ickes got the final out of the inning and then gave up an unearned run in the seventh to secure the win.
"[Claar's] just working herself back into shape after being off two and a half weeks," Barbarini said.
"Against Conemaugh Valley, she sort of lapsed [late] like she did today, but she worked herself through it," he said. "But, when you have a pitcher behind her like Kelsey Ickes, we knew we could play defense and still win the game."
After retiring the first nine, Claar gave up a leadoff single to Becky Britton in the fourth inning. She walked the next two, loading the bases with no outs, but gave up only one run before striking out the side.
Claar also fanned three batters in the fifth before giving up a run in the sixth on a walk, wild pitch and single.
"I think my hand just got a little tired," Claar said of her early exit.
Northern Cambria coach Paul Artley was impressed with Claar.
"It took us awhile to catch up with her speed," Artley said. "We've faced only one other pitcher with speed that compares to her.
"But, I was pleased that we stuck with it," Artley said. "However, we made too many mistakes in the field."
Artley also was happy with his pitcher, Bre Sabella, but felt the 20-minute delay hurt her as the Bulldogs pushed over four insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth.
"[Sabella] tightened up a little, plus she threw a lot of pitches," Artley said.
Claar also was a big contributor at the plate, driving in three runs with two triples and a single.
Kalee Harten was the offensive star for C-K, knocking in five runs with four singles in five at-bats. Courtlin Holland collected three hits for the 'Dogs.
Game notes: C-K will face West Branch, a 9-1 winner over Bellwood-Antis, in the 6-A title game next Wednesday at Penn State. ... The Bulldogs and Warriors split two regular-season games.
NORTHERN CAMBRIA (3): Britton cf 412, Sabella p 300, Lieb cr 000, G. Butterworth 3b 200, M. Butterworth dp 210, Frontino rf 000, Ashurst lf 300, Serafin 1b 201, Kollar 2b 300, Lecorchick ss 311, Prasco c 300. Totals - 25-3-4.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (9): Claar p-2b 533, Ickes 1b-p 321, Harten c 504, Kulick cr 000, Holland 3b 503, Fleck 2b-1b 201, Brumbaugh cf 310, Barnes rf 310, Cox ss 210, Long ph 100, Ritchey lf 411. Totals -33-9-13.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Northern Cambria000 101 1-3 4 4
Claysburg-Kimmel120 024 X-9 13 2
E-G. Butterworth, Ashurst, Lecorchick, Prasko, Holland, Ritchey. 2B-Ickes, Ritchey. 3B-Claar 2. RBI-Harten 5, Claar 3, Long, Britton, Serafin 2. HPB - Serafin by Claar, Fleck by Sabella. SB - Claar. Umpires - Ron Rupert (plate), Jim Campbell, Beth Campbell (bases).
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL ...... IP H R ER BB SO
Claar (W) 5.2 3 2 2 3 15
Ickes 1.1 1 1 0 0 0
Sabella (L) 6 13 9 7 6 8
Records: Claysburg-Kimmel (18-4); Northern Cambria (17-6).