JOHNSTOWN - As soon as Bellwood-Antis pitcher Taylor Payne underhanded a throw to first for the game's final out, she sprinted to catcher Jacqueline Finn and jumped into her arms.
Finn and Payne fell to the ground, and the rest of the Lady Blue Devils piled on top.
It was hardly a way to celebrate a routine play to end a blowout, but there was a little more meaning behind this dogpile.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Bellwood-Antis’ Emily Nagle is unable to hold on to the throw while making a tag on CV’s Becca Justinus.
Third-seeded Bellwood-Antis reached its first-ever district championship game with a 12-1 victory over second-seeded Conemaugh Valley in the District 6 Class A semifinals on Wednesday afternoon.
"Kids will be kids," Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Payne said with a chuckle. "You've got to be happy with that. I keep telling them all year, 'Eventually we've got to act like we've been here before,' but officially, we haven't been this far.
"We're happy to be here, so we'll let them have some fun."
The Lady Blue Devils put the ball in play in all but six of their 42 plate appearances, scattering 15 hits off of Lady Blue Jays pitcher Holly Glass.
Finn was 4-for-4, was hit by a pitch, scored twice and had two RBIs, while Kelsey Shawley was 4-for-5 with two runs and an RBI.
Leadoff hitter Emily Nagle had two hits - including an inside-the-park home run down the right-field line in the fifth inning - walked once and touched home four times.
Meghan McCaulley drilled a 190-foot solo home run off of the scoreboard in left field in the fourth.
"We've been doing it all year," Jim Payne said of his team's hitting. "We knew this was a good team, and we had to come down and make our hits and make our runs when we had the chance.
"They're hard workers, they want to be better hitters. It paid off today."
Payne was solid from the circle once again, striking out seven and walking none. She gave up five hits, three of which were in the fifth inning when Conemaugh Valley finally got on the board. She added three RBIs on a sacrifice fly in the first and a two-run double in the seventh.
"Taylor's pitching, again, just carrying us and keeping the bats at bay," Coach Payne said. "She just does the job we ask her to do every time. She does a great job for us."
"She was strong," Conemaugh Valley coach Paula McCleester said of the Bellwood righty. "We hit the ball, but we were just getting out. We put the bat on the ball, but we just couldn't put it into a nice gap."
The Lady Devils wasted no time getting to Glass and the Blue Jays' defense.
Bellwood-Antis scored four runs on three hits and forced Conemaugh Valley into three errors in the first inning alone.
"They looked like they were a little nervous through the beginning," Payne said. "That's what we do - we keep the pressure on and play hard and try to create those."
The Blue Devils opened their lead up to eight in their four-run fourth inning - highlighted by McCaulley's blast - and led 9-0 after Nagle touched them all on her rope into the right-field corner in the fifth.
They plated three more runs in the seventh.
"I think the nerves got the best of us," McCleester said. "It's been a long time since we've been here in the semifinal round. The girls had to settle down, but they didn't settle down soon enough. We got a little action late in the game. It just wasn't enough.
"[Bellwood is definitely a good team. They definitely outplayed us today."
Bellwood-Antis will face the winner of today's 3 p.m. game between fifth-seeded Portage and top-seeded Claysburg-Kimmel in the district championship game next Wednesday at Penn State's Beard Field.
The Blue Devils lost a pair of one-run decisions to the Lady Bulldogs this season and did not face the Lady Mustangs.
"We're going to go enjoy this, and head to Penn State and see if we can do something fun," Payne said.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (12): Nagle cf 442, Wolfe 2b 512, Finn c 424, Kirkpatrick cr 010, Shawley 1b 524, Payne p 301, Snyder ss 510, Fraser dp 401, Decker 3b 000, M. McCaulley lf 411, Davensizer rf 400. Totals 38-12-15.
CONEMAUGH VALLEY (1): Kist cf 301, Cekada ss 300, Glass p 300, Britton lf 300, Pollino c 301, E. Stiffler 3b 300, Justinus rf 311, Angus 2b 301, K. Stiffler 1b 201. Totals 26-1-5
SCORE BY INNINGS
Bellwood-Antis400 401 3 - 12 15 0
Conemaugh Valley000 010 0 - 1 5 4
E-Cekada, Britton, E. Stiffler, K. Stiffler. LOB-Bellwood-Antis 9, Conemaugh Valley 4. 2B-Payne. HR-M. McCaulley, Nagle. RBI-Nagle, Finn 2, Shawley, Payne 3, Snyder, Fraser, M. McCaulley, K. Stiffler. SF-Payne. SB-Nagle.
Bellwood-Antis-Payne (W), 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO.
Conemaugh Valley-Glass (L), 7 IP, 15 H, 12 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO.
HBP-by Glass (Finn). WP-Payne, Glass.
Records: Bellwood-Antis (19-3), Conemaugh Valley (17-2).