CRESSON - Preparation and execution are two important ingredients to be successful in any sport.
In the District 6 Class AA quarterfinals Monday afternoon, the Central softball team's performance was textbook.
The fifth-seeded Lady Dragons roughed up Penn Cambria pitcher Kelly Yusko for 14 hits and played tremendous defense to eliminate the fourth-seeded Lady Panthers, 8-3, and snap their 15-game winning streak.
"I think we were ready today," Central coach Dale Walters said. "We wanted to make sure we stayed disciplined at the plate. We had a scouting report that [Yusko] consistently pitches the ball up in the zone and gets outs. They plan was to not swing at those. We needed to make her bring it down, and when she brought it down, we jumped all over it."
Central's Kate Blattenberger was the most notable to lead by example.
The senior - who, according to Walters, likes to hit the high ball - stayed patient in the box and had two inside-the-park home runs, a double and three RBIs.
"She realizes this is it for her," Walters said. "She's been a leader all year, and she's just been a tremendous player. She has a tendency to swing at that high pitch. But today she waited and took care of business. She did a great job."
"We just had to make [Yusko] pitch to us and make her give us our pitches so we could hit them hard," Blattenberger said. "I just went out there swinging hard, worked on my swing and waited for my pitch."
Blattenberger wasn't the only Lady Dragon to have success at the plate. In fact, Central's first five batters each had a hit and scored before an out was recorded in the game.
Marissa Snyder opened the contest with a triple to deep center and scored on Taylor Garman's single through the left side of the infield. Ashley Smith followed with an RBI double down the left-field line.
Taylor McKnight then hit a single up the middle, and Smith came home on Crystal Smith's throwing error to the infield from center.
Blattenberger completed the Lady Dragons' cycle with the first of her two round-trippers.
Yusko retired the next to batters, but gave up back-to-back singles to Kassidy Snyder and Janine Snyder before getting leadoff hitter Marissa Snyder to ground out to first.
"That first inning was big," Penn Cambria coach John Casale said. "They are a tough team. They hit the ball well."
Alli Reese got the Lady Panthers on the board in the second inning, leading off the frame with an inside-the-park homer down the left-field line. Katie Little followed with a triple to left-center, but was left stranded.
Penn Cambria cut the lead to 5-3 in the fourth after Yusko tripled and scored on Little's sacrifice fly to right, and Reese walked, stole second and scored on Alison Kleman's base hit through the left side.
"After that first inning, the girls stayed with it," Casale said. They kept playing hard. They didn't quit."
But Blattenberger struck again, circled the bases on her hard-hit ball down the left-field line in the top of the fifth inning and gave the Lady Dragons a three-run cushion.
Garman added two more RBIs in the sixth.
Penn Cambria scattered only six hits on pitcher Kylie Gunnett, who had two strikeouts and two walks.
"We like to change speeds," Walters said. "She was able to throw her change-up for strikes. That was the key to the game - keeping them off-balance."
Central's defense was impeccable, recording two double plays - one on a base-running miscue. Several players made outstanding plays, including Marissa Snyder at second, McKnight at short and Paige Mock in right, who ran a long way to track down the game's final out.
"I've seen them play a couple of times, and I knew going in that they were very sound defensively," Casale said. "I kind of figured it would take about eight runs to win the game, but I knew in our lineup, we just don't have that kind of punch."
"They're well-coached, disciplined, make the routine plays. That's what you've got to do."
Central will host eighth-seeded Bald Eagle Area - which upset top-seeded Ligonier Valley, 7-6 - in Thursday's semifinals.
The Lady Dragons defeated the Lady Eagles, 5-3, in the first game of the season for both teams.
"We've got a good team," Walters said. "If we play our best ball, we're as good as anybody."
CENTRAL (8): M. Snyder 2b 321, Garman c 413, Aiello cr 000, A. Smith 3b 411, McKnight ss 412, Blattenberger cf 423, Gunnett p 400, Mock rf 401, K. Snyder 1b 401, J. Snyder lf 312. Totals 34-8-14.
PENN CAMBRIA (3): Freeman ss 301, S. Roberts 3b 300, Yusko p 312, Reese c 221, Little 2b 201, Kleman lf 301, Hurley pr 000, Livingston rf 000, McIntosh dp 300, Cr. Smith cf 200, E. Roberts 1b 200, Ca. Smith ph 100. Totals 24-3-6.
SCORE BY INNINGS
E-Cr. Smith, Livingston 2. DP-Central 2. LOB-Central 6, Penn Cambria 3. 2B-A. Smith, Blattenberger. 3B-M. Snyder, Little, Yusko. HR-Blattenberger 2, Reese. RBI-Garman 3, A. Smith, Blattenberger 3. SF-Little. SB-Reese. CS-A. Smith.
Central-Gunnett (W), 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO.
Penn Cambria-Yusko (L), 7 IP, 14 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO.
Records: Central (16-4), Penn Cambria (16-2).