BEDFORD - Stefanie McCoy tried to beat the throw from the third baseman by sliding headfirst into home and kicked up a huge cloud of dust.
"I knew I had to get my hand in there,'' McCoy said. "I think I swallowed a mouthful of dirt.''
The aftertaste, though, never was so sweet.
McCoy scored on the play after hitting a two-run triple earlier to highlight Chestnut Ridge High School's eight-run first inning, then went on to fire a one-hit complete game as the Lady Lions captured their third consecutive District 5 Class AA softball championship via a 10-0 win over Conemaugh Township on Wednesday at the Bedford Area High School sports complex.
"When I was [in eighth grade], I don't think I knew what a district championship was,'' said Ridge center fielder/leadoff batter Tiffany Clingerman, one of six Lady Lion seniors, including three who started in four 5-AA finals. "There was still pressure [this year]. We were still defending a title. They had nothing to lose. We had everything to lose.''
But they didn't, coming out on top for the 19th time in 20 starts and earning a spot in the PIAA tournament on Monday vs. District 6 runner-up Central Cambria at a District 5 site. The district final was called after 4 innings because of the 10-run rule, the Lady Lions' 14th mercy-rule win of the season and the second in the playoffs.
"They are just a super bunch of kids,'' Chestnut Ridge coach Chuck Corle said. "When you're here four years, it'll be tough making the lineup next year, because I've written them in so many times.
"I'm glad to three-peat.''
It didn't take long for the Lady Lions to take charge, sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring eight times in the bottom of the first after McCoy retired Township (13-6) in order. Clingerman scored twice in the inning, starting off with a walk and blooping an RBI double inside the left-field line.
"Getting that big lead really calms your nerves down a lot,'' Clingerman said.
In between Clingerman's two trips to the plate, McCoy smacked an 0-2 offering over left fielder Beth Brenchak's head that bounced to the fence to drive in Clingerman and Stephanie Deaner. McCoy dove safely into home when Township third baseman Tara Rosa threw wildly to the plate after fielding a shot by Alana Weyant, and the first of Bridgie Yother's two singles scored Weyant.
Township needed to play a near-perfect game but committed three errors and making two passed balls along with a wild pitch in the inning.
"Not much I can say, is there? We got our butt handed to us,'' Lady Indians coach Rod Jarvis said. "They put pressure on us early, and we just fell apart.''
Ridge brought the 10-run rule into play in the bottom of the fourth when Deaner doubled and scored on an error, and McCoy came in on Weyant's single.
All that remained was for McCoy to seal the deal by keeping Conemaugh Township off the board in the fifth, which she did when Amanda Grundman lined out to left fielder Makayla Dunlap.
It was the third time McCoy, who also plays shortstop, has been the winning pitcher in the 5-AA finals.
"I'm thankful that I'm chosen to pitch every [championship] game, but I just feel blessed that it's been a win every time,'' McCoy said.
Although she walked four, McCoy came one out from a no-hitter, walking Brenchak, Township's No. 9 hitter, on a full count before Courtney Blank belted a ground-rule double into the vines on the left-field fence.
"I didn't even know [about the no-hitter], but I was pretty upset with myself. That wasn't the best pitch I'd thrown all day,'' McCoy, who struck out six, said.
The one thing these Lady Lions have yet to accomplish is an interdistrict win.
"Hopefully, this leads to the next step,'' Corle said. "We've been there the last two years. We've come up short both years. It's someplace we want to go, so we're back to where we want to be. It's just a matter of getting over that next hump.''
McCoy credited her older sisters, Brooke and Janelle, with helping make her the player she is. Despite nice softball careers at Ridge, none of them won PIAA tournament games, and the youngest McCoy would like to change that.
"I have a feeling we should go further in states than we have in the past,'' McCoy said.
Game notes: Weyant played despite the death of her grandmother in the morning. ... Jarvis was restricted to the dugout after arguing that McCoy was throwing an illegal pitch in the second inning. Jarvis' starting pitcher, Blank, had two balls called for illegal pitches in the first inning. ... Ridge is tentatively scheduled to play Fannett-Metal Saturday for the Sideling Hill League title.
CONEMAUGH TOWNSHIP (0): C. Blank p-ss 201, Grundman ss-3b 300, Reckner c 200, Kolesar 1b 100, Luprek rf 100, Michalides 2b 200, Zaman cf 200, Rosa 3b 100, Siehl p 000, Summits ph 100, Brenchak lf 100. Totals - 16-0-1.
CHESTNUT RIDGE (10): Clingerman cf 121, Deaner rf 321, McCoy p 321, Weyant 3b 311, Mock ss 200, Yothers 2b 312, Dunlap lf 210, Finnegan c 110, Gates 1b 100. Totals -19-10-6.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Conemaugh Township000 00X X- 0 1 4
Chestnut Ridge800 2XX X-10 6 0
E-Grundman, Zaman, Rosa, C. Blank. LOB-Conemaugh Township 5, Chestnut Ridge 2. 2B-Clingerman, Deaner, C. Blank. 3B-McCoy. RBI-McCoy 2, Yothers, Gates, Clingerman, Weyant. SF-Gates. PO-Kolesar.
Conemaugh Township: C. Blank (LP)-1 IP, 3 H, 8 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO; Siehl-3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO.
Chestnut Ridge: McCoy (WP)-5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 SO.
WP-C. Blank 2, McCoy. PB-Reckner 2.
Records: Conemaugh Township (13-6); Chestnut Ridge (19-1).
Umpires: Mike Whitcomb (plate), Greg Spiker (first), Brian Brode (second), Al Godissart (third).