JOHNSTOWN - Considering the weather system that moved through the area in the afternoon, the comments of Bedford Area High School baseball coach Scott Waugerman seemed fitting.
"Unfortunately, we didn't weather the storm,'' Waugerman said.
Waugerman was talking about Central, though. Pitcher Jared Baird provided the thunder, and the Dragons offense had plenty of lightning.
Mirror photo by Gary M.?Baranec
Central’s Pat Schon is safe at home as Bedford catcher Tyler Black looks for the ball in the first inning.
Baird struck out 11 and only gave up four hits, and the Dragons jumped out to a six-run lead by being aggressive at the plate and on the basepaths to advance into the PIAA Class AA semifinals late Thursday night with an 8-1 victory against District 5 champion Bedford.
Central (18-5) will face District 7 champion Riverside on Monday to determine one of the spots in the Class AA state final at Penn State University's Medlar Field. Riverside beat Saegertown, 10-7.
Originally slated for 6:30 p.m., the game didn't get started until 9:15 because of the thunderstorms that rocked the area in the afternoon. Central wasn't reached to be told the first game of the doubleheader was being delayed, and the Dragons' bus pulled into its parking spot at 5:15.
"I told the kids to get mentally ready, we're going to be sitting around for a long time,'' Central coach A.J. Hoenstine said, "and they did that.''
Baird didn't seem fazed at all.
"He's been getting stronger and stronger as the year's gone on,'' Hoenstine said. "In a game like this, he's such a competitor. You see him running off the field like a crazy man. You don't see that every day.''
The senior left-hander came into the game with double-digit strikeouts in a game twice this season, once fanning 13 and another time recording 10. He had six through two innings on Thursday, basically overpowering the Bedford hitters for the most part.
"I felt more comfortable working out of the windup, and I thought my fastball was popping,'' Baird said. "[The wait] wasn't bad, because it was relatively cool out. So we were just hanging out. If it had been hot, then that would have been different. I felt confident. I was well rested.''
"After the first inning, I felt very confident. I thought there was very little chance that we were going to lose.''
That's because the Dragons brought the offense, too, staking Baird to a 6-0 lead by the end of the second.
Central only had five hits but stole six bases, all but one of both coming in the first two innings. It was the first time in these playoffs that the defending state runners-up have gotten out to the lead.
"Last game, I didn't like how intense we came out,'' said Dragon leadoff man Pat Schon, who went 1-for-2 and scored in each of the first two innings. "Today, we did a really good job of being focused and coming out aggressive. We did a good job.''
Baird started things off by striking out the side on 16 pitches in the first inning. He then drove in the game's first run on a hard grounder off the shortstop's glove into center field.
The Dragons tacked on a run in the first when Bedford starter Brian Gibbons caught courtesy runner Adam Kreider trying to steal. As he ran at Kreider, speedy Lucas Runk broke for home and scored when catcher Tyler Black couldn't hold onto the ball trying to apply the tag.
Central erupted for four runs in the second. The first three Dragons to come to the plate reached base, bringing Bedford coach Scott Waugerman out to replace Gibbons with stud reliever Marcus Shippey.
That did nothing to deter the Dragon bats. Schon and Austin Cunningham greeted Shippey with singles. Then Lucas Runk smashed a drive that got over the head of Bison center fielder Sean Leister and rolled to the brick wall.
Runk tried to come all the way around to score but had to settle for a two-RBI triple when Shippey flipped the ball to Black for the out at the plate.
"I ran out of gas about five steps from home,'' Runk said. "I was tired running around the bases.''
The Bisons got on the board in the fourth. Gibbons doubled off the netting above the left-field wall to lead off, stole third easily and came across on Black's groundout. Central, though, got that run back and an insurance run in the sixth without the benefit of a hit - a hit batsman, two walks and five wild pitches.
Bedford ended the year 9-9. The Bisons entered the playoffs 6-8 before winning District 5 and their first-round interdistrict game.
"There's only going to be one team that doesn't walk away with a loss this year,'' Waugerman said. "We told them not to let tonight ruin or take away from the last couple of weeks.''
BEDFORD (1): J. Deasey ss 300, R. Robinette 1b 300, Shippey 3b-p 301, Gibbons p-3b 311, Black c 201, S. Deasey cr 000, Leister cf 200, A. Robinette rf 000, Kendall dh 200, Henry 2b 200, Housel ph 100, Himler lf 201, Mueller ph 100. Totals - 24-1-4.
CENTRAL (8): Schon rf 221, Long pr 000, Cunningham ss 311, Runk cf 211, Baird p 201, Kreider cr-pr 010, Hamm c 300, Forshey dh 200, Knisely 2b-pr 010, Smith pr 000 , Longenecker 3b 200, Blattenberger 1b 110, Negley lf 311. Totals - 21-8-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Bedford000 100 X-1 4 2
Central240 002 X-8 5 1
E-A. Robinette, Blattenberger, J. Deasey. LOB-Bedford 4, Central 2. 2B-Black, Gibbons. 3B-Runk. RBI-Baird, Schon, Runk 2, Black. SB-Schon, Runk, Kreider 2, Longenecker, Negley, Gibbons. CS-Smith, Cunningham. PO-Himler.
Bedford: Gibbons (L)-1 1/3 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 1 SO; Shippey-4 2/3 IP , 2 R, 2 ER, 3 H, 4 BB, 9 SO.
Central: Baird (W)-7 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 11 SO.
HBP-By Gibbons (Longenecker), by Shippey (Forshey). WP-Gibbons, Shippey 5.
Team records: Bedford (9-9); Central (18-5).
Umpires: Bob Buck (plate), Joe Stephan (first), John Berezansky (second), Frank Olsavsky (third).