UNIVERSITY PARK - If birthday presents come in the form of district championships, then Claysburg-Kimmel's Ronette Claar struck gold Wednesday afternoon.
Celebrating her 17th birthday, the junior hurler even gave herself and her teammates a gift in the process.
Thanks to an 11-strikeout, no-walk, four-hit performance, Claar guided the Lady Bulldogs to a 10-1 victory over West Branch in the District 6 Class A title game at Penn State University's Beard Field.
Mirror photo by J.D.?Cavrich
Claysburg-Kimmel’s Kalee Harten (left) and Ronette Claar celebrate their title victory.
"Awesome," Claar said of the unique setting. "It feels good. We had to work hard for it, but we still got here. We still did well."
Claar was in cruise control from the opening pitch for the third time in three games.
In each of the previous two rounds, she struck out eight of the first nine outs. But Wednesday - despite hitting two batters and giving up a single - Claar struck out the first nine outs of the title game, giving her a combined 25 strikeouts in the first three innings of each of Claysburg's three playoff games.
"She is tough," West Branch coach Jerry White said of Claar. "She pitched a real good game."
"Dominant again early," Claysburg-Kimmel coach Mike Barbarini said of his ace. "She's getting stronger working her way back from that injury. She kept them off-balance a lot, and we made plays when we needed to in the field."
The Lady Bulldogs also cashed in on several Lady Warriors miscues.
Claysburg-Kimmel blew open a 4-1 game in the fifth inning with four runs on three hits and three West Branch errors.
"At the beginning of the year, I told them that everyone is going to learn how to bunt because we're going to be in situations where we need to bunt," Barbarini said. "We just kept putting the bunt down and they just kept throwing the ball away. We kept advancing runners."
But that wasn't even the most peculiar part of the contest.
With one out and three runs already across, Claar grounded out to second for the second out, but the Lady Warriors jogged off the field, the public address announcer began his between-inning routine and hip-hop music echoed from the stadium's speakers.
It wasn't until Barbarini brought the glitch to the attention of home plate umpire Randy Lose that the score keepers for each team compared books and determined that there were only two outs after Claar's groundout.
On that particular play, Samantha Barnes scored from third and Brooke Ritchey moved up a base from second.
When the situation was corrected, they play stood and West Branch re-took the field for the third out.
The best explanation for the debacle could only be figured by lead off hitter Courtlin Holland reaching base after a dropped third strike.
But somewhere between the hits, errors, stolen bases and Lindsay Long's sacrifice fly, an extra out was given when it shouldn't have been.
"That was strange," White said, whose team fell to 15-8. "We got it figured out, but I'm a little surprised that happened.
"With the way we had been playing defense for the last month, I never dreamed we would have six errors today. A lot of them were throwing errors. Some of them at the beginning were nerves, but later in the game, they were just mistakes. I'm just disappointed that we gave them as many opportunities as we did."
The Bulldogs' Kala Brumbaugh reached base each of the three times she went to the plate - once on a walk and twice on errors - and scored three runs. Mandy Echard had a pinch-hit, two-run single in the sixth inning, Barnes was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Kalee Harten was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
"We just concentrated all week about putting the ball in play, making contact with the ball," Barbarini said.
Claysburg-Kimmel (19-4) will play either Hyndman or Fannett-Metal - opponent's in today's District 5 championship at Everett Elementary - in the first round of the state playoffs on Monday.
WEST BRANCH (1): Couteret lf 301, Albright cf 300, Bell 2b 300, Kopchik ss 301, Larson p 311, McK. Ahlberg 1b 301, MeL. Ahlberg 3b 300, Reams c 200, Hahn c 100, McCracken cr 000, Croyle dp 200, Ceprish rf 000. Totals 26-1-4.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (10): Claar p 411, Ickes 1b 200, Kulick cr 000, Harten c 412, Holland 3b 210, Klepser ph 111, Fleck 2b 411, Brumbaugh cf 230, Echard ph 101, Barnes rf 312, Long dp 110, Cox ss 000, Ritchey lf 401. Totals 28-10-9.
SCORE BY INNINGS
West Branch000 100 0 - 1 4 6
Claysburg-Kimmel110 242 x - 10 9 1
E-Kopchik, MeL. Ahlberg 2, Bell, Reams, MeK. Ahlberg, Cox. LOB-West Branch 5, Claysburg-Kimmel 8. 2B-Larson, Harten. RBI-MeK. Ahlberg, Claar, Harten, Echard 2, Barnes 2, Long. SAC-Barnes. SF-Long. SB-Claar, Brumbaugh, Barnes, Ritchey. PB-Reams 3, Harten.
West Branch-Larson (L), 7.0 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 6 SO.
Claysburg-Kimmel-Claar (W), 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 SO.
HBP-by Claar (Croyle, Couteret).
Umpires-Home, Randy Lose; First, William Raco; Second, Craig Burris; Third, James Rupp.
Records-West Branch (15-8), Claysburg-Kimmel (19-4).