BEDFORD - Confidence breeds confidence, and success breeds success.
The Penn Cambria High School softball has had plenty of the latter this season, and it's giving the Lady Panthers more and more of the former.
The youthful Lady Panthers knew before Tuesday that they could win a close game. Now they know they can come back to pull a tight game out on the road, too, after scoring three times in the last two innings to edge tough Kacy Blevins and Bedford, 3-2, in a Laurel Highlands Conference nonsectional game to run their surprising record to 10-1.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
PC’s Kelly Yusko delivers a pitch.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Bedford’s JoJo Nave puts down a sacrifice bunt against Penn Cambria on Tuesday.
"I really gained a lot of confidence. Our bats really came alive. It was nervewracking when we're out there and we're down by two,'' said PC sophomore pitcher Kelly Yusko, who went 4-for-4 while striking out nine in a five-hit effort in the circle. "But we came back with the bats.''
Bedford had a 2-0 lead with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, but courtesy runner Sarah Hurley beat Lady Bison first baseman Maggi Secrest's throw home on a groundout to get Penn Cambria on the board, and seventh hitter Sarah Roberts singled into center field to drive in the tying run.
After Yusko and the Lady Panthers got out of a jam unscathed in the bottom half of the inning when Darian Mickinac tripled with one out, PC number nine batter Emily Roberts led off the seventh with a single, stole second, advanced to third on Taylor Freeman's single and scored when a diving Jojo Nave couldn't get to Alli Reese's blooper to short center field in time.
Yusko set down Bedford in order in the bottom of the seventh, getting Nave to pop to first for the final out with Blevins, who'd already ripped a triple and a double, on deck.
"I think they are starting to buy into what we're trying to get them to do like hustling after balls and the little things. A year ago, we wouldn't make some of the plays [we made today]. This is one of those games we had to have to instill that mindset,'' Penn Cambria coach John Casale said. "This will build character in the girls.''
Five of Penn Cambria's 10 hits in its final two at-bats.
Bedford dipped to a frustrating 4-6. The Lady Bisons had four extra-base hits, and Blevins, whose batting average actually went down with her 2-for-3 day at the plate, struck out seven and walked just two in a losing cause.
"We had some mental errors,'' Bedford coach Sarah Harrison said. "The girls can see what they are capable of doing. They almost beat a team that was 9-1. We just have to finish the job.''
The Lady Panthers, though, have discovered their capabilities and are fulfilling them. After years near the bottom of the LHAC Section 1 standings, Penn Cambria went 12-2 and got to the District 6 Class AA semifinals last year. A strong follow-up wasn't a certainty, though, with the graduation of all-star pitcher Kate Reese and her catcher, Brianna Toth. All seven returning starters are juniors or sophomore, and only one senior is on the roster.
"It was a little bit iffy, but after we won some tough games, it really came around,'' Yusko said. "This shows if we're down, even in the last inning, we can really come around.''
Game notes: A switch-hitter, Nave actually turned around from left to right when she got down 0-2 on her second at-bat. ... Mickinac didn't start the game but came on in the second inning. ... The game's first seven outs were strikeouts. ... Both teams return to action with section home games on Thursday, Penn Cambria against Cambria Heights and Bedford against Somerset.
PENN CAMBRIA (3): Freeman ss 401, Reese c 401, Yusko p 404, Hurley cr 010, McIntosh dp 300, Kowalski pr 010, Livingston rf (flex) 000, Little 2b 301, Kleman lf 201, S. Roberts 3b 301, Cr. Smith cf 200, E. Roberts 1b 311. Totals - 28-3-10.
BEDFORD (2): Territo 2b 410, Nave cf 300, Blevins p 302, Simon lf 300, Secrest 1b 311, Krupa c 000, Mickinac c 202, Wolford cr 000, Gronborg 3b 300, Cassidy dp 200, Shoemaker ph 100, Arnold ss (flex) 000, Mueller rf 300. Totals -27-2-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Penn Cambria000 002 1-3 10 3
Bedford010 010 0-2 5 1
E-Mickinac, Freeman, Yusko, Little. LOB-Penn Cambria 8, Bedford 6. 2B-Secrest, Blevins. 3B-Blevins, Mickinac. RBI-Gronborg, Blevins, Kleman, S. Roberts, Reese. SAC-Mickinac, Nave, Little. SB-Hurley 2, Little, Reese.
Penn Cambria: Yusko (W)-7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 SO.
Bedford: Blevins (L)-7 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO.
Records: Penn Cambria (10-1); Bedford (4-6).
Umpires: Steve Fisher (plate), Mike Whitcomb (bases).