By Todd Irwin
EBENSBURG - Central Cambria and Cambria Heights are both being led by first-year coaches this season in former Lady Red Devils star Jamie Dixon and Eric White, respectively.
Only Dixon, though, is following in the footsteps of a District 6 legend in Pat Stock, who retired at the end of last season after 34 years and 527 wins at the helm.
The Lady Devils have had their ups and downs, and Thursday's game against Heights was a perfect example. They committed eight errors, but they broke open a tied game in the fifth inning with a five-run outburst, and freshman left-handed pitcher Morgan Ostinowsky tossed a four-hitter in a 7-3 win.
"We had a pretty good hitting game. I was happy with that," Dixon said. "Defensively, our errors didn't kill us today. It is [frustrating], but at the same time, I was in their shoes once, and I understand the pressure to want to be perfect.
"But, I've explained to them you can't be perfect, and this is ultimately a game of failure because if you go 3-for-10, you're doing well. I just try to stay positive with them, tell them not to get discouraged and not get discouraged with them."
"We got some cheap runs off of them," White said, "but if we had hit the ball hard with the way [Central Cambria] was fielding today, I feel we could have really made some noise. But, it didn't happen today."
Dixon, a 2006 CC graduate who was inducted into the District 6 Hall of Fame as a player last year with Stock, says she hasn't talked too much to her former coach. So, what you see on the field now with the 6-3 Lady Devils has been because what she learned as a CC and St. Francis University coach and assistant under Stock.
"It's been really different because I used to stand back and give my opinion, but he didn't always take it," said Dixon, whose sister, Latrace, is her first base coach. "Now, I call the shots. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're not. It's definitely a learning experience for me.
"I like it because the girls are pretty close to my age, so they're comfortable with me. I they've responded well. They're very respectful of me. Being that I helped coach for two years helped because they saw I was putting the effort in before."
Senior center fielder Aimee Espe, who is the only returning starter from last year's District 6 Class AA runner-up team, said there hasn't been that much of a change as far as coaches is concerned.
"It's nice having a young coach," Espe said, "and she's really into it. It's new, but I like it a lot. I knew it was going to be a rebuilding year, but I thought we were going to be a lot worse than we are. We're actually really good this year."
The Lady Highlanders were 2-5 at one point, but they had won three in a row coming into the game with a freshman pitcher in Cori James.
"We started off pretty bad," White said. "They're coming along. I'm hoping to get to .500 or better this year. We're right on track for that."
Heights tied the game, 2-2, with an unearned run in the top of the fifth, but an aggressive CC wasted little time getting the lead back. Junior Alexis Murin hit James' first pitch over the left field fence. RBI singles by Brooke Forcellini, Ostinowsky and freshman Krysta Berzonsky and a run-scoring Allison Kick grounder followed.
"I tell them whenever it's there to swing," Dixon said. "I don't like to tell them to take at all. I trust all the hitters, so I just leave everything up to them. Without that inning, those errors could have cost us the game."
"Lexi set that up with the home run," Espe said. "We just knew that we had to get it done."
"The first batter came up and hit a home run, and I think that really rallied them," White said. "They did hit the ball hard that inning. We have to score runs to win, and three runs isn't going to cut it, I guess."
CAMBRIA HEIGHTS (3): Link c 400, Cordell 2b 300, Miller cf 400, Kosicki 1b 400, James p 400, Lewis rf 322, Couturiaux ss 300, Ki. Bills dp 301, Krantz lf 211, Ka. Bills lf 000, Wills 3b 000. Totals - 30-3-4.
CENTRAL CAMBRIA (7): C. Long c 412, Murin ss 311, Espe cf 422, Howell 3b 410, Forcellini lf 412, Ostinowsky p 401, K. Long 1b 311, Berzonsky rf 302, Kick 2b 300, Dreikorn 2b 000. Totals - 32-7-11.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Cambria Heights000 111 0-3 4 4
Central Cambria200 050 X-7 11 8
E-Couturiaux 2, Link, Krantz; Howell 4, C. Long, K. Long, Berzonsky, Kick. 2B-C. Long. HR - Murin. RBI-Ki. Bills; Murin, Espe, Forcellini, Ostinowsky, Berzonsky, Kick. SB-Link, Cordell, Miller, Lewis; Espe 2, Ostinowsky, Berzonsky. SAC-Ka. Bills. HBP-Cordell. LOB-Cambria Heights 9, Central Cambria 8. DP-Central Cambria.
Cambria Heights: James (L)-6 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO.
Central Cambria: Ostinowsky (W)-7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO.
Records: Cambria Heights (5-6); Central Cambria (6-3).