BELLWOOD - Maddie Miller and Jacqueline Finn did their best to keep Bellwood-Antis out of the rain - but in the end, the pair played in the mud anyway.
Miller pitched five shutout innings, and Finn went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk-off sacrifice fly as the Lady Blue Devils topped Ligonier Valley, 10-0, in the first round of the District 6 Class AA high school softball playoffs Thursday afternoon.
Following the sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth inning to end the game, Miller and her B-A teammates tossed the infield dirt - which had started to turn into mud from a slow drizzle that began to pick up in the final inning - all over Finn in what Bellwood coaches described as a walk-off tradition at the school.
"I threw strikes and was where I needed to be, and my defense backed me up," said Miller, a freshman who has split time in the pitching circle this season with Taylor Shildt. "It was really nice to have a quick game, because it's horrible playing in the rain. I want to just keep winning with my team."
If fifth-seeded Bellwood is to continue past Monday, it will have to beat fourth-seeded Bald Eagle Area in Milesburg. The Eagles topped Penns Valley, 10-3, on Thursday.
After a scoreless first inning, Bellwood-Antis began to pull away in the second thanks to some miscues by the Lady Rams - who finished with six errors in the contest.
Laycee Clark and Shildt led off with singles, and Miller bunted them into scoring position before Caroline Showalter put B-A ahead with an RBI single. Kelsey Dennis hit an RBI grounder to make it 2-0, and Ligonier Valley pitcher Kailee Lear should have been out of the inning two pitches later when she induced a fly ball from Emily Nagle. But the ball slipped out of Abigail Salancy's glove and another run scored.
One pitch later, Anna Wolfe, who finished the day 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored, singled in Nagle and came home herself when Finn reached on another error.
"We didn't know much about them other than they had a good record and had a good team," said Ligonier Valley coach Matt Zimmerman, whose team finished 11-8. "That's exactly what we saw. We had some girls on, but we couldn't get a hit when we needed it and we just played too sloppy behind our pitcher to stay in it."
Bellwood-Antis (14-2-1) scored 10 runs on 14 hits one game after tying Everett, a team it beat in the regular season, in the Inter-County Conference championship game, 1-1.
"We just want to come out and play the best softball we can at this time of the year," Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Payne said. "When you get a chance to put one of these teams away early, you have to take advantage of it."
Miller escaped a mini jam in the top of the first inning when Salancy singled and reached third with two outs but was barely challenged the rest of the way.
"Maddie pitched great in her first-ever playoff game," Payne said. "She hit her spots after a little early struggles, but as she continues to grow up and feel this playoff pressure, I think she'll do pretty good for herself."
Miller said winning is extra important to her so the Lady Devils can extend the career of their lone senior, Nagle - who doubled and scored the final run of the game.
"Emily has been leading us for four years and doing a great job for us," Payne said. "We're going to try and send her off the best way possible, and she keeps working hard to make that happen."
LIGONIER VALLEY (0): Cmar 2b 301, Salancy cf 301, Kuhn ss 200, Frappier 1b 200, Henderson c 000, Lynch dp 200, Lear p 201, Horrell cr 000, Yesky cf 101, Michaels 3b 200, Adams rf 100. Totals - 18-0-4.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (10): Nagle cf 421, Wolfe 2b 322, Finn c 312, Convery 3b 201, Clark ss 312, Shildt 1b 322, Miller p 202, Showalter rf 311, McElwain lf 111, Dennis dp 200. Totals - 26-10-14.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Ligonier Valley000 00X X-0 4 6
Bellwood-Antis051 22X X-10 14 1
E-Cmar 3, Kuhn 2, Salancy, Convery. 2B-Yesky, Finn, Nagle. RBI-Wolfe, Finn, Clark, Showalter, Dennis. WP-Miller. LP-Lear.
BA: Miller-5 IP, 4H, 1BB, 2K, 0R
LV: Lear-4 1/3 IP, 14H, 1BB, 0K, 10R, 5ER
Umpires: Ron Rupert, Ray Hipp, Jim Campbell
Records: Ligonier Valley (11-8); Bellwood-Antis (14-2-1).