UNIVERSITY PARK - It's "Wait until next year" for the Claysburg-Kimmel Lady Bulldogs.
C-K's dreams of a PIAA Class A softball state championship ended Monday afternoon when the Bulldogs dropped a heartbreaking 2-1 decision to Fannett-Metal in the Round of 16 at Beard Field at Nittany Lion Park.
"We knew it was going to happen one way or the other," C-K coach Mike Barbarini said. "We were either going to win by one run or lose by one run. When you get two good teams together, that's usually what happens."
C-K's Ronette Claar, a junior, and F-M's Blaire Lauthers, a sophomore, hooked up in an expected pitching duel, and both runs and hits were at a premium.
Tough-luck loser Claar gave up only two runs [both unearned] and two hits while striking out nine and walking two. Lauthers, the winner, gave up just one hit and one run [also unearned], struck out seven and walked two.
Claar retired the first 10 batters before Fannett's Naomi Fields reached on an error. After two outs, Claar walked Lauthers and Lydia Middaugh ripped a double to left-center, scoring courtesy runner Kaitelyn Hammond and Lauthers.
"It was a big hit for me," said Middaugh. "The way it came off the bat, it felt good, and it came at the right time."
The Tigers changed strategy after Claar struck out seven in the first three innings.
"They were short-swinging to put the ball in play," Claar said. "They were ready for the rise ball, too.
"One team had to win and they executed better than us. It's disappointing."
Lauthers was near perfect until the bottom of the fifth. With one out, C-K's Kala Brumbaugh drew a walk and Samantha Barnes reached on an error, putting runners at second and third with only one out.
With two outs, C-K sophomore Brooke Ritchey punched a single to center. Brumbaugh scored, but Barnes was held at third and eventually stranded there.
"The girl [center fielder Megan Daugherty] threw a strike to home plate and [Barnes] would have been out by three or four steps," Barbarini said.
Earlier in the at-bat, Ritchey poked a ball past first base that could have scored two, but it was just foul, and C-K coaches did not complain.
"I thought it was foul from where I was standing," said Barbarini, who was coaching third base. "He [umpire] made a good call."
Barbarini was disappointed C-K was unable to get more hits off of Lauthers.
"We worked all week on timing and getting the bat out," Barbarini said, "but we fell just a little behind making contact.
"We wanted to put it in play and capitalize on mistakes, but it didn't happen."
Claysburg, the District 6 champion, finished with a 19-5 record.
"It just didn't come out in our favor today," Barbarini said.
District 5 champ Fannett-Metal moves to the state quarterfinals at 20-2.
"[Claysburg] beat us 1-0 in the first round last year," F-M coach Stu Miller said. "One of their girls made a fabulous catch in the outfield, we took off and they doubled us off to finish the game.
"I'm so pleased the girls get to go to the next step. Hopefully, we can add on," Miller said.
FANNETT-METAL (2): Dougherty cf 300, Fields c 300, Hammond cr 010, Rhodes ss 300, Lauthers p 210, Middaugh lf 301 Wenger pr 000, Gipe 2b 300, Hile 3b 200, Burdge rf 301, Ruby 1b 200. Totals - 24-2-2.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (1): Claar p 300, Ickes 1b 300, Harten c 300, Kulick cr 000, Holland 3b 200, Fleck 2b 300, Brumbaugh cf 210, Barnes rf 300, Cox ss 300, Ritchey lf 201. Totals -24-1-1.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Fannett-Metal000 200 0-2 2 2
Claysburg-Kimmel000 010 0-1 1 1
E-Rhodes 2, Barnes. 2B-Middaugh, Burdge. RBI-Middaugh 2, Ritchey.
Fannett-Metal-Lauthers (W), 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO.
Claysburg-Kimmel-Claar (L), 7 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO.
Umpires-Home, James Davis; first, Daniel Olsavsky; second, Anthony Olsavsky; third, Stephen Roman.
Records: Fannett-Metal (20-2); Claysburg-Kimmel (19-5).