MARION CENTER - Cambria Heights knew what to expect entering Friday afternoon's game against Marion Center.
The Highlanders still didn't have an answer for the Stingers, though, and were ousted in the first round of the District 6 Class AA playoffs after a 7-0 loss at Marion Center Community Park.
"We played them earlier in the year, and lost 5-1," Cambria Heights coach Eric White said. "It was the same game as before, and you saw it here today. Our pitcher was throwing their hitters off balance, but we had a couple errors. I guess that's what happens when you're starting four sophomores and two freshmen. We knew what we needed to do, and for the most part, the pitcher held up her end of the deal, but the defense didn't."
The inexperienced Highlanders finished their season with an 8-8 record, and the No. 3 Stingers advanced to face sixth-seeded Blairsville.
"We had our ups and downs this year, for sure," White said. "I hate to call it a rebuilding year but that's pretty much what it's been, and that showed today. It's just frustrating knowing how much better they can be, and it's been so up and down for them."
Cambria Heights, which was the No. 14 seed in the tournament, managed just two hits and had two runners caught stealing second. The Highlanders had an opportunity in the top of the fourth with runners on second and third, but Kat Lox struck out to end the inning.
"We got a couple girls on, but we had trouble getting them past first base," White said. "With younger girls, sometimes we have trouble getting those timely hits that we need. There were numerous times this year that we had bases loaded with nobody out and didn't score a run. It's frustrating with our inexperience, but they play hard and we're going to keep getting better.
"I'm very proud of the girls. We'll keep pumping it out and chugging away working at it."
Marion Center's Laken Ryen led off the bottom of the first inning with a single. She advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on an RBI single by Megan Risinger. Ryen then kicked off the bottom of the third with a solo home run to give the Stingers a 2-0 lead.
Ryen went 2-for-2, walked twice and scored three runs.
"We weren't intentionally trying to walk her," White said, "but I told our pitcher not to give her anything that she could smack over the fence. We all know that [Marion Center's] pitcher and shortstop are the heart and soul of that team, and they're the ones that really hit us the first time around."
Marion Center added two more runs in the third, one in the fifth and two in the sixth.
Megan Risinger picked up the win for the Stingers with nine strikeouts and two walks.
Cori James took the loss for the Highlanders with five strikeouts and four walks. James and Hannah Smithmyer each had a hit for Cambria Heights.
"They have a few good sticks on that team, and we did a good job minimizing what they could do to us," Marion Center coach Ed Peterson said. "We played pretty good defense, and it was pretty much what we expected."
While the Stingers are looking forward to Monday's game against conference foe Blairsville, the Highlanders will begin prepping for next season.
"We are only going to get better," White said. "My pitcher will be back, and I'm only losing two girls from this team. We'll be solid again, and we'll be back in the playoffs. Hopefully we get to play Marion Center again next year. I'll be looking forward to it."
CAMBRIA HEIGHTS (0): Lidwell rf 3000, James p 3010, Prichard 1b 3000, Smithmyer ss 3010, Lox 3b 3000, Cordell 2b 2000, Hoover lf 2000, Lewis cf 2000, Gill c 2000, Totals 23-0-2-0.
MARION CENTER (7): Ryen ss 2321, Snyder cf 4100, Risinger p 3223, Dotts c 3100, Riley dh 3000, McMahan 3b 3022, Donaldson lf 2000, Frye rf 2000, Fairman 2b 3000, Tonkin ph 1000, Peterson 1b 0000, Totals 26-7-6-6.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Cambria Heights000 000 0 - 0 2 2
Marion Center103 012 X - 7 6 2
2B - Dotts, McMahan. WP - Risinger 9 SO, 2 BB. LP - James 5 SO, 4 BB.
Records: Cambria Heights (8-8)