Claysburg - Claysburg-Kimmel senior Ronette Claar recently finalized her college plans when she signed to play softball at Mercyhurst Northeast, but the hard-throwing hurler had other things on her mind Thursday.
Claar struck out 15 and gave up just one hit as Claysburg downed Portage, 7-0, to advance to the District 6 Class A finals.
The undefeated and top-seeded Lady Bulldogs play Bellwood-Antis in the championship game Wednesday at Penn State University.
The Inter-County Conference foes played twice previously with Claysburg squeaking out a pair of one-run victories.
The title tilt will be just as close, Claysburg coach Mike Barbarini said.
"It'll come down to execution," Barbarini said. "It'll be a one-run game again. Neither team will dominate the other. It'll be decided by a mistake or a clutch hit. Most likely [it will be] a mistake that'll cost a run or two."
Claar set the tone early against Portage from the mound and the batter's box. She struck out nine straight to start the game and 10 of the first 11 Lady Mustang hitters she faced.
Claar also led off the bottom of the first with a single and came around to score. Kala Brumbaugh followed Claar's hit with a bunt single. Both Claar and Brumbaugh scored on RBI-groundouts by Lydia Fleck and Hannah Claycomb to give the Lady Bulldogs an early 2-0 lead.
Claar finished 3-for-3 with two runs and two runs batted in. Brumbaugh went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Kiersten Coho had two hits, a run and an RBI as well hitting out of the eight hole.
Claysburg extended its lead with single runs in the second and fourth and a 3-spot in the fifth.
Claycomb led off the fifth with a single and was bunted to second by Brooke Ritchey. One out later, Mercedeze LeMaster doubled Ritchey home. Coho followed with a single that scored Abby Kulick, who was running for LeMaster.
Claar capped the rally with a single past Portage shortstop Haley Heidlee, bringing home Coho.
It was more than enough offense for Claar. Portage didn't get its first base runner until Claar walked Emily McCabe with two outs in the fourth. The Lady Mustangs only hit came in the sixth when McCabe lined a single to center.
"Dominating," Portage coach Brian Jubina said of Claar's pitching. "We had trouble putting the ball in the play. You want to play small ball against a pitcher like that, but when you fall behind it's tough to do that."
Portage's seasons ends at 11-9.
"Early on we lost some games we shouldn't have, but we did a really good job towards the end of the year. We played hard all season and won one playoff game," Jubina said.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Portage000 000 0-0 1 5
Claysburg-Kimmel210 130 x-7 11 0
2B-LeMaster. Multiple hits-Claar 3, Brumbaugh 2, Coho 2. RBI-Claar 2, Brumbaugh, Fleck, Claycomb, LeMaster, Coho. WP-Claar. LP-McCabe. SO-McCabe 1, Claar 15. BB-McCabe 2, Claar 2.
Records: Portage (11-9); Claysburg-Kimmel (21-0).