NEW PARIS - In the fourth inning of Friday afternoon's Sideling Hill League softball game between Tussey Mountain and host Chestnut Ridge, a friendly, impromptu wrestling match of a couple of young male fans broke out on the hill behind the backstop.
At that very time on the field, Ridge was showing it still was the heavyweight in Bedford County as far as its sport was concerned.
Although only two of the players that were in the lineup that took the District 5 Class AA championship in 2011 are the same, the Lady Lions are producing similar results this spring. Ridge scored four times in the third inning and five more in the fifth to dispose of a Tussey team enjoying its best success in years, 11-1, in five innings to run its record to 8-2 and stay perfect against county foes.
"The girls work together really well. We work together as a team, and we keep each other up,'' said junior Bridgit Yothers, who pitched a seven-strikeout, one-walk one-hitter and supported her own cause with two singles, two runs and two RBIs. "At the beginning of the season, we were worried about having so many starters out. But, now that we've started playing ball, it's all about that. It's not about what we've done in the past.''
The Lady Lions improved to 6-2 in league play. Tussey came in 5-5 overall and 3-3 in league play, but Morgan Brumbaugh's second-inning single to center was the only thing separating Yothers from a no-hitter.
"They've got a good program up here. I tried to talk our kids into it, but they've got to buy into that they're a good ball team, too,'' Tussey coach Rick Reed said. "Last year it took us the whole year to win five games.''
The Lady Titans looked like they were going to make it competitive, as freshman pitcher Alex Watkins matched Yothers through two innings. Watkins actually had a no-hitter until there were two outs in the third inning, when Ridge catcher Jayna Fickes' grounder up the middle drove in two runs to give the Lady Lions control of the game with a 4-0 lead.
Fickes is one of Chestnut Ridge's eight first-year starters.
"It feels pretty good to be a part of it and get to play and feel that you are helping out along the way,'' Fickes said. "We're a good team. We're not going to let down. We feel we're going to pick it back up and just do good the rest of the season. We want to win. We're all part of the team, and we're a big family who want to play as hard as we can.''
Although Fickes was confident, Lady Lions coach Chuck Corle was pleasantly surprised to be 8-2 through 10 games. Among the players Ridge graduated from its three consecutive District 5 Class AA champion teams were power-hitting multi-year area all-stars Alana Weyant and Stefanie McCoy, both of whom got college scholarships.
"Last year, we got a lot of leads, and I was able to put a lot of young girls into the games, and that sure helps getting them ready to take the next step. We also have a very good junior high program,'' Corle said. "We're starting four sophomores, and they've come up and stepped in.''
This year's Lady Lions have to win in other ways than just pounding opposing pitching. On Friday, Ridge only had six hits - Alexis Corle's RBI double in the fourth was the lone extra-base hit - but Lady Lions also drew nine walks and were hit by pitches twice.
Ridge didn't hurt itself in the field, either, making just two errors compared to six for Tussey.
"We have to hit the ball more now, because we don't have our strong hitters. We also have to play better defense. If we don't have the defense, it affects the game,'' Yothers said.
Game notes: Corle, who also singled, was the only other player with more than one hit. ... Tussey will try to get back on the winning track in a league game at Forbes Road on Monday. Ridge will be at Fannett-Metal the same afternoon trying to avenge one of its two defeats this season.
TUSSEY MOUNTAIN (1): Kaminsky cf 200, Buhrman 2b-ss 110, Lemin c 200, McCue 3b-1b 200, M. Brumbaugh lf 201, Zelanko lf 000, Ramsey 1b 200, Swope 3b 000, Reffner ss 200, Black 2b 000, Curfman dp 200, Watkins p 000, Drenning rf 100, J. Brumbaugh rf 000. Totals - 16-1-1.
CHESTNUT RIDGE (11): Feather ss 120, Carthew 2b 320, Yothers p 322, Corle lf 312, Dunlap cf 120, Knisely dp 210, Batzel 3b 000, J. Fickes c 201, K. Fickes 1b 100, Neatrour rf 311. Totals -19-11-6.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Tussey Mountain000 10X X- 1 1 6
Chestnut Ridge004 52X X-11 6 1
None out when ending run scored.
E-Batzel, Buhrman 2, McCue, K. Fickes, Kaminsky, Lemin, Black. 2B-Corle. RBI-J. Fickes 2, Yothers 2, Corle, Dunlap. SAC-Carthew, Yothers. SB-Buhrman. CS-Kaminsky.
Tussey Mountain: Watkins (L)-4 IP, 6 H, 11 R, 6 ER, 9 BB, 6 SO.
Chestnut Ridge: Yothers (W)-5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO.
HBP-By Watkins 2 (Corle, Dunlap). WP-Watkins 4. PB-Lemin 2.
Records: Tussey Mountain (5-5; 3-4 SHL); Chestnut Ridge (8-2; 6-2 SHL).
Umpires: Mike Whitcomb (plate), John Coolbaugh (bases).