JOHNSTOWN - The Huntingdon batters were hitting the ball against Richland senior pitcher and West Liberty recruit Nicki Mihalik, but the first 11 batters went down in order.
And then Kyra Shea's single to right-center field opened the floodgates in the District 6 Class AA quarterfinal on what turned out to be a sunny Monday evening at the Richland Elementary Field. Play was delayed three pitches into the game by lightning.
The 14th-seeded Lady Bearcats found their groove at the plate, scoring eight combined runs in the fourth and fifth and pounding 10 hits over the next four innings, took advantage of six Richland errors, survived a rally by the sixth-seeded Lady Rams and won a wild one, 13-7.
"It feels great to go out there with everybody and win a game against a team like this," said cleanup hitter Natanya Shingler, who was 2-for-3 and scored three runs.
"We knew they had a solid pitcher, and we knew we had to take advantage when she was in the [strike] zone," Huntingdon coach Chris Patrick said, "and in the early going, I thought it might be a 1-0 or 2-0 game. But, it certainly opened up."
Huntingdon has certainly showed seedings and records don't mean a thing at this point in the season. The Lady 'Cats, who beat Bald Eagle Area and Central in one week late in the season and entered the quarters following a win over No. 3 Blairsville, improved to 10-11 with the win over 14-5 Richland.
"I think the key is the league we play in [Mountain League] is so tough that we know we're going to be in a battle each and every day," Patrick said. "I really do think that's prepared us for this. Let's face it, we are peaking at the right time."
"I told our girls the other day 'We might be seeded higher, and it gives us homefield advantage, but [Huntingdon] is the better team,'" Richland coach Ed Haberkorn said. "Between Bald Eagle, Philipsburg and Penns Valley in the last 15 years, there's probably been five state champions. That's quality ball, and we don't play that kind of stuff here."
Huntingdon will hit the road again on Thursday in its semifinal against 10th-seeded Ligonier Valley, which beat Juniata, 10-4.
"We're coming together as a team," Shingler said, "and we know we have to win to be where we want to be."
Shingler followed Shea with a single, and Cheyanne Snyder scored them both with a triple to right field, and she scored when the relay throw in the outfield was flubbed. After another error, Janay McCrum plated Shannon Henney with a single.
Huntingdon pushed four more runs across in the fifth to give pitcher Morgan Glover an 8-0 lead. But, Richland wasn't done just yet.
The Lady Rams scored three in the fifth - two on a Mihalik triple and the other on a Glover wild pitch. After Huntingdon scored a run in the sixth, Richland added four more in the bottom of the inning to climb to within two runs, 9-7.
But the first four Huntingdon batters in the four-run seventh came through with hits, including a Henney two-run triple.
With runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh, first baseman Shea gloved Sadie Kaminsky's line drive and touched first base for a game-ending double play.
"I'm always nervous," Patrick said. "I'm never relaxed until the final out is recorded."
HUNTINGDON (13): Mort c 521, Mansberger ss 310, Shea 1b 322, Shingler lf 332, Snyder 3b 322, McMullen pr 000, Henney 2b 421, McCrum rf 401, Conner dp 300, Varner cf 411, Glover p 000. Totals - 32-13-10.
RICHLAND (7): C. Syfert ss 420, Mahood 3b 400, Mihalik p 413, Dona 1b 400, J. Syfert c 401, Mishler rf 100, Rainey rf 200, Diamond 2b 100, Swansboro 2b 211, Kaminsky lf 412, Hauser cf 322. Totals - 33-7-9.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Huntingdon000 441 4-13 10 4
Richland000 034 0- 7 9 6
E-Snyder 2, Mansberger, McCrum; Mahood 2, C. Syfert, Mishler, Diamond, Kaminsky. 3B-Snyder, Henney; Mihalik. RBI-Henney 3, Snyder 2, McCrum, Conner; Mihalik 2, Hauser. LOB-Huntingdon 3, Richland 7. DP-Huntingdon. SAC-Conner. SB-Shingler. HBP-Diamond.
Huntingdon: Glover (W)-7 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 1 BB, 1 SO.
Richland: Mihalik (L)-7 IP, 10 H, 13 R, 3 BB, 2 SO.
Records: Huntingdon (10-11); Richland (14-5).