NORTHERN CAMBRIA - Trailing by three runs entering its final turn at bat, the Portage softball team would not allow a scheduled concert to serve as an excuse to throw in the towel.
Instead, the Lady Mustangs banded together for seven singles in the top of the seventh inning to lift the fifth-seeded visitors over Northern Cambria, 7-6, in a District 6 Class A playoff game Monday at the Northern Cambria Recreation South Complex. The Mustangs earned a semifinal date Thursday at unbeaten Claysburg-Kimmel.
"We're definitely not going to lay down. We're going to go down to Claysburg and give it all we've got," Portage coach Bryan Jubina said.
"If we can stick together and keep our heads in [the game], we'll be good," winning pitcher Emily McCabe said.
The quarterfinal-round game started 90 minutes earlier than originally scheduled because of a chorus and band concert that was scheduled at Portage Area High School later in the evening.
"Almost every girl on our team is in the chorus or band," Jubina said. "So [Northern Cambria] was nice enough to schedule it earlier. And who knows? With the [pending threat of] rain, maybe that was a good thing."
Portage (11-8) opened the scoring in the first inning after McCabe stroked an RBI single. She and Kaitlyn Dividock scored on passed balls to give the Mustangs a 3-0 lead.
The Colts battled back in the home half of the first on Amy Lieb's two-run single.
"We've been able to do that the entire year," Northern Cambria coach Paul Artley said. "Once we got down early in games we've had that ability."
An RBI bunt single by Becky Britton produced the tying run in the fourth. Britton's second RBI single of the day, followed by Kelly Lieb's two-run single in the sixth, gave sophomore right-hander Lakyn Fornari a three-run to protect.
The Mustangs erased the deficit, however, thanks to a two-run single by Haley Heidler and run-scoring singles from Courtney Jubina and Kaitlin Jubina.
"We just knew we had to do it or else we'd be going home," McCabe said.
"I told them, 'Hey. We've got to put some hits together,'" Jubina said. "They finally did."
Artley made no excuses for the way the game ended.
"It wasn't errors in that last inning [that hurt the Colts]. They were just hitting balls where we weren't. And we just couldn't get those three outs in that last inning," he said.
McCabe then retired the side in order to preserve the win. The junior right-hander struck out five, walked two and allowed 11 hits.
"In the last inning, once she had the lead she could smell blood," Jubina said.
Northern Cambria managed a 13-7 record despite starting the season without a pair of juniors who had been two-year starters.
"This group has really overachieved. This was a good senior group that just didn't want to lose," Artley said.
PORTAGE (7): Layo 2b 512, Gorba 1b 511, McCabe p 412, Divodock ss 421, Forst rf 411, Heidler cf 312, Madigan 3b 403, C. Jubina c 401, K. Jubina lf 402. Totals - 37-7-15.
NORTHERN CAMBRIA (6): Britton cf 313, Farabaugh dp 310, Fornari p 000, K.Lieb 3b 412, Lecorchick ss 401, Amy Lieb lf 401, Walters c 411, Ann Lieb 1b 311, Bernard 2b 311. Totals - 32-6-11.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Portage300 000 4 - 7 15 1
Northern Cambria200 103 0 - 6 11 3
E-Dividock, Britton, Ann Lieb, Walters. LOB-Portage 9, Northern Cambria 7, 2B-Hamm, Negley. RBI-Lewis, Adamson, LaMantia 2.
CentralIP H E ER BB SO
McCabe(W) 7 11 6 6 2 5
Fornari(L) 7 15 7 4 2 1
WP-Fornari. PB-Walters 2. C. Jubina.
Umpires-Home, Skip Powell; Bases, Steve Roman, Tony Olsavsky.
Records: Portage (11-8); Northern Cambria (13-7).