EBENSBURG - The Central Cambria softball team likes the long ball.
But Thursday in the District 6 Class AA semifinals, the Lady Devils knew they had to have a different approach to solve Penn Cambria pitcher Kate Reese.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Central Cambria’s Kacey?Haluska (7) gets a hug from Jordan Makin after the Lady Red Devils’ victory Thursday.
The gameplan worked to perfection as second-seeded Central Cambria blanked the Lady Panthers, 5-0, to earn a date with top-seeded Philipsburg-Osceola in next week's district championship.
It will be the Lady Devils' first crack at the title since 2003. They haven't won since 1999.
"It was more of a situation where you're facing a pitcher you're just not going to crank the ball over the fence off of," Central Cambria coach Pat Stock said. "Kate Reese is a good pitcher. We sort of manufactured most of our runs today. You gotta do whatever it takes at the time.
"Any time you go into a game, it's not how you get runs, it's make sure you get some."
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Lady Devils were looking to add to their 2-0 lead, and Lindsay Beyer got things rolling with a single to center.
Ali Vogatsky roped a grounder to deep short, but because Beyer hustled to second, shortstop Alli Reese was forced to try to make a play at first. Beyer and Vogatsky each advanced on the errant throw.
Aimee Espe laid down a perfect suicide squeeze to score Beyer and took second on the scatter for the ball behind the plate.
Kacey Haluska and Jackie Howell each added RBIs to complete the three-run inning.
"They're a young team. They made some mistakes when we put the ball in play," Stock said. "They opened the door for us. I knew if we got that third run with the suicide squeeze, it was kinda like a dagger, and that's how it worked out."
It wasn't just the offense that clicked for the Lady Devils (13-1).
Pitcher Jordan Makin and her defense kept a potent Penn Cambria lineup off the board.
Twice the Lady Panthers (12-2) stranded runners on second and third - once in the second and again in the fifth.
"Our game, we have to have those little things come our way," Penn Cambria coach John Casale said. "Today, they just didn't happen. That's what we needed - runners on, top of our order coming up. We couldn't put the hits together."
"That was big," Stock said. "That was the very scenario I was afraid of. If they go up one- or two-nothing early in the game, it only builds their confidence, and then we start to doubt a little bit. The fact that we never got behind is what gave us the best chance to win."
That, and Makin's gem.
"I can't say enough about how Jordan threw tonight," Stock said of Makin's three-hitter. "She just painted corners all night. And to shut them out in this game was huge. They're a good team."
"I didn't even really think about [the shutout], honestly, until the end," Makin said. "Then I was like, 'Oh my God, I actually got a shutout in districts.' I can't even explain how happy I am. I didn't want to do it just for myself. It was really for my coach and my team. I'm really happy."
Stock, who is retiring once the season ends, also completed a rare milestone Thursday.
Under his 34-year guidance, Central Cambria is 58-0 against the Lady Panthers.
"The law of averages was against me," Stock joked, noting he didn't want to jinx his team's chances of advancing because of the streak. "I start thinking about it when I shouldn't."
Central Cambria and Philpsburg-Osceola are scheduled to play Wednesday at Penn State University. Both teams will receive bids to the PIAA tournament.
Game notes: Kate Reese struck out six, including four consecutive outs, and walked one in a three-hitter to cap off her high school career. ... Beyer was 2-for-3 and scored twice. Espe drove in two runs. ... Penn Cambria's Taylor Freeman had the game's only extra-base hit with a double in the fifth inning. ... Stock will be making his 11th district championship appearance and is looking for his sixth title. ... Both of Penn Cambria's losses this season were to Central Cambria.
PENN CAMBRIA (0): Freeman cf 301, A. Reese ss 300, K. Reese p 300, Yusko 1b 200, Toth c 201, Cr. Smith rf 301, Kleman lf 300, E. Roberts 2b 300, S. Roberts 3b 100. Totals 23-0-3.
CENTRAL CAMBRIA (5): Lorditch cf 401, Swatsworth ss 200, James c 210, Beyer 1b 322, Vogatsky 3b 310, Espe lf 310, Haluska rf 300, Forcellini dp 200, Howell ph 100, Farabaugh pr 000, Makin p 000, Magley 2b 300. Totals 26-5-3.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Penn Cambria000 000 0 - 0 3 2
Central Cambria000 203 x - 5 3 0
E-E. Roberts, A. Reese. LOB-Penn Cambria 5, Central Cambria 5. 2B-Freeman. RBI-Vogatsky, Espe 2, Haluska, Howell. SB-Cr. Smith.
Penn Cambria-K. Reese (L), 6.0 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO.
Central Cambria-Makin (W), 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO.
HBP-by K. Reese (Swatsworth).
Records: Penn Cambria (12-2); Central Cambria (13-1).