BELLWOOD - A year after winning the District 6 Class A title, Bellwood-Antis has made the daunting move up to Class AA.
Not because the Lady Blue Devils relish the thought of playing in the toughest class in the district, but because they had to due to increased numbers of female students at the high school.
Seeded fifth, B-A started its difficult road through the playoffs on a crazy opening day by scoring two runs in the first inning against Westmont Hilltop, riding the 11-strikeout, four-hitter of pitcher Taylor Payne, getting a three-hit, two RBI performance by Emily Nagle and holding off the pesky Lady Hilltoppers, 3-1.
Mirror file photo
Mirror file photo
Emily Nagle had a big day offensively for the Lady Blue Devils.
"Isn't that the way AA is?" B-A coach Jim Payne said. "Everybody comes to play. Everybody knows we've stepped up this year, so we're expecting this."
Most thought that B-A (19-2) would have to go through returning district runner-up and state semifinalist Central and defending district champ Philipsburg-Osceola to get to the finals again. Instead, fourth-seeded Central lost, as did second-seeded Penn Cambria and third-seeded Blairsville.
B-A's next game will be against 13th-seeded Penns Valley, an 8-2 winner over Central, at 4 p.m. Monday at home in the quarterfinals.
"Every game from here on out is not easy," Taylor Payne said. "If we play solid defense and have solid hitting, we will win."
"They're a very capable team," Westmont coach John Grace said. "Jim Payne is a quality coach, and I think they'll do just fine."
B-A struck early as Westmont's outfielders misjudged fly balls that resulted in back-to-back doubles by leadoff hitter Anna Wolfe and Nagle, and Nagle scored on a fielder's choice.
Westmont pitcher Victoria Parlock settled down and didn't allow another run until the sixth. She got some help in the fifth when right fielder threw a one-hop strike to catcher Alyssa Miller, who tagged out a sliding Wolfe, who was trying to score on a Nagle hit.
The Lady Devils did add an insurance run in the sixth on a Westmont error.
The only run Payne gave up came in the third when Parlock walked, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Kaitlin Mical softly-hit single to left field. Payne, who threw 72 strikes out of 105 pitches, walked four batters. She had walked 10 all season.
"My control was a little out of whack," she said, "but I got the job done. I had 11 strikeouts, so I really can't complain."
She got some defensive help in the sixth from freshman third baseman Laycee Clark, who made all three putouts, hauling in two difficult pop-ups in foul territory and tagging third on a force-out for the third out.
"Nice freshman for us," Coach Payne said. "She works hard, plays hard and is dedicated to the game."
Westmont (9-7) made it interesting in the seventh after Payne struck out the first two batters. The dangerous Parlock singled to right, and Mical reached on an error, but right fielder Taylor Shildt ran down Alyssa Miller's fly ball into foul territory for the final out.
"Oh my goodness, I was shaking," Taylor Payne said. "I was like 'Let's just get that last out.' We got that out, and that's what matters."
WESTMONT HILLTOP (1): Parlock p 211, Mical rf rf 401, A. Miller c 401, C. Miller dp 300, Zolnosky 2b 301, Keefe cf 100, Foster 3b 100, Grassmyer ph 100, Sotto ss 200, Leech ph 100, Clark lf 200, Kaseler ph 100, Petrell 1b 000. Totals - 25-1-4.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (3): Wolfe 2b 412, Nagle cf 413, Finn c 200, Harris cr-ph 000, Snyder ss 400, Payne p 200, Clark 3b 200, Decker 1b 311, Shildt rf 201, Kirkpatrick lf 201. Totals - 25-3-7.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Westmont Hilltop001 000 0-1 4 2
Bellwood-Antis200 001 X-3 7 2
E-Sotto, Petrell; Snyder, Decker. 2B-Wolfe 2, Nagle. RBI-Mical; Nagle 2, Finn. SB-Parlock, Keefe. CS-Keefe (by Finn); Kirkpatrick (by A. Miller). SAC-Grassmyer; Finn, Shildt.
Westmont Hilltop: Parlock-6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO.
Bellwood-Antis: Payne-7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 11 SO.
Records: Westmont Hilltop (9-7); Bellwood-Antis (19-2).