Special to the Mirror
CRESSON - Although Penn Cambria had more opportunities with runners in scoring position, the big hit eluded the Lady Panthers all day long on Friday.
On the other hand, Bald Eagle Area was able to cash in on their opportunities to hand Penn Cambria its only loss of the season, 5-1, in the District 6 Class AA softball semifinals.
"They came up with the big hit," Penn Cambria coach Jake Casale said. "We knew going in that it was going to be a tough game. It played out as one of our worst nightmares. They outplayed us in every part of the game. We just couldn't come up with the hits when we needed them. Our deficiencies showed up in the batting order. It was disappointing."
Penn Cambria's Kelly Yusko and Makenna Dyke of Bald Eagle matched wits early in a pitcher's duel. Both teams were held scoreless through the first two innings.
Bald Eagle's MacKenzie Proctor led off the third with an infield single. After a sacrifice bunt, Morgan Nyman singled to right to put runners on the corners. On the first pitch, leadoff hitter Haley Giedroc hit a screaming line drive that just got over the reconfigured left field fence at Penn Cambria High School. Bald Eagle led 3-0.
"When she turns on it, it's out of here," Bald Eagle coach Curtis Heverly said about his shortstop. "When it went over fair, I thought we were in pretty good shape."
Giedroc hit a pitcher's pitch.
"She hit a good pitch, it was down and in, Casale said. "She kind of golfed it out. It was by no means a mistake pitch. One run won't win you most games. That's where it comes down to, we needed to score more."
In the playoffs where one big inning could be the difference, Giedroc's shot proved to be too big of a blow to recover from for the Panthers, who finished 19-1.
"At the time, I thought okay, we're down," Casale recalled. "We were doing good, we were hanging in there. I just thought if we could peck away, get a run here, one there. I told the girls before the game if we keep the game within a run at the end with the top of the batting order coming up, we have a chance. But when you're down three and four runs, I knew at the time the mountain kept getting steeper and the pressure started mounting. We couldn't overcome it."
The back-to-back Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference champions answered with a run of their own in the bottom half of the third. Alli Reese led off with a bunt single. With two outs, Caitlyn Sheehan singled. Mackenzie McIntosh followed with a single up the middle to score Reese.
The score remained the same until the fifth. With one out, Nyman (3-for-3) and Giedroc both singled. Both runners moved up on a perfect fake bunt, double steal play. Dyke hit a sacrifice fly to center to make it 4-1. The Bald Eagles (18-4) added an insurance run in the seventh on a Nyman RBI single. For the game, Bald Eagle was 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Penn Cambria just couldn't come through against Dyke. They left the bases loaded in the first and single runners between the third and sixth innings were left stranded, a total of seven.
"She has pretty good control and makes them hit her pitch, instead of laying them in there," Heverly said. "She's not overpowering but she's pretty heady."
Fourth-seeded Bald Eagle knew it had its hands full facing Yusko.
"To win up here, off that pitcher, it's pretty impressive," Heverly said. "We didn't have a good scouting report on Yusko. She's tough. She looked real good to me defensive. When we got five runs, I felt pretty comfortable in the end there with Dyke on the mound."
Looking to play in its first district final, Penn Cambria fell short. However, the team has nothing to be ashamed of after winning the school's only conference championships the past two years.
"Graduation is going to hurt us," Casale said about the losses of Yusko, Reese, and McIntosh, among others. "Losing the pitcher [Yusko] and catcher [Reese] combination is really going to be a hole to fill. That's going to be one of our major weaknesses next year. There's only one team that's going to be standing at the end. There's going to be a lot of disappointed teams. It's the memories you made to get to this point and they made a lot of good memories. I thank the seniors for all the memories. I'm going to cherish them for the rest of my career here and beyond. It was fun."
BALD EAGLE AREA (5): Giedroc ss 412, Ma. Dyke p 200, Tobias 3b 300, Fischer rf 300, Smith 2b 300, Andrews lf 200, Proctor dp 322, Peters cf 000, Mo. Dyke 1b 100, Nyman c 323. Totals: 24-5-7.
PENN CAMBRIA (1): Reese c 411, Yusko p 401, Little 2b 400, Sheehan lf 202, McIntosh 3b 301, Anderson ss 301, Hite 3b 300, Weakland cf 301, Doughty dp 300, Livingston rf 000. Totals 29-1-7.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Bald Eagle003 010 1 - 5 7 1
Penn Cambria001 000 0 - 1 7 1
E-Dyke, Hite. 2B-Proctor, Sheehan. HR-Giedroc. SB-Giedroc, Nyman 2. CS-Ma. Dyke. SH-Andrews, Mo. Dyke 2. SF-Ma. Dyke.
Ma. Dyke 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.
Yusko 7 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.
Home umpire-Skip Powell. Bases-Jim Davis. Bases-Tony Olsavsky.
Records: Bald Eagle (18-4), Penn Cambria (19-1).