BEDFORD - Tussey Mountain has waited 34 years to make it back to the PIAA softball tournament.
It will be at least another season until the Lady Titans return.
Tussey was unable to build momentum from its extra-innings upset of top-seeded Shade less than 24 hours earlier to dethrone defending champion H.O.P.E. for Hyndman in the District 5 Class A championship game. Hyndman jumped out to a five-run lead through 4 innings en route to a 7-2 victory over the Lady Titans on Thursday at Bedford Area High School.
Tussey finished the year 14-7.
"It's really difficult. I'm going to really miss my team," said teary-eyed pitcher Tinesha Curfman, one of two seniors in Tussey's lineup, following the defeat. "It was tough [to come back after the Shade win], but we did our best."
After building a 4-0 lead on Wednesday, Tussey gutted out a 9-6 win in 11 innings against Shade to earn a spot in the finals. However, the Lady Titans didn't seem to be quite refocused in the title game. The Lady Hornets got their first three batters on to score a run in the top of the first and almost repeated that in the third to make it 2-0 before breaking it open with a three-run fifth.
Tussey committed five errors and didn't have a hit until Morgan Brumbaugh's one-out single in the third. The Lady Titans loaded the bases that inning but didn't score, and they left five runners stranded the next three innings.
"Our defense is usually pretty solid, and we had too many mistakes right out of the gate. And we usually hit way better. We're disappointed," Lady Titans coach Sandy Kay Rickabaugh said. "[Wednesday] night, we played solid and really well. I just wish we could have had a break today."
Brumbaugh finished with a pair of hits, including a leadoff double in the fifth to start off a two-run rally. McKenna Curfman drove in both Tussey runs on a line single to right field with two outs.
All eight of Hyndman's hits came from its first six spots in the order, including two apiece from Jessica Ringler, Kayla Wilt and Kadie Cosgrove. Julie Sanders knocked in two runs as the Lady Hornets, seeded sixth, improved to 13-8 and earned a trip east on Monday to play District 5 champion Halifax in the PIAA first round.
"It's an awesome feeling to go back-to-back. We're looking forward to keeping it going," Lady Hornets coach Matt Dawson said.
All but two of the players that suited up for Hyndman were part of the championship experience last year, including Cosgrove. A sophomore, Cosgrove scattered six hits, struck out 10 and walked four, although she'd rather be playing another position.
"I'd rather be playing short, but I've got to do what's best for the team. With pitching, there's a lot of weight on your shoulders," Cosgrove said. "I pitched better than I normally do. I was nervous, but I was really excited to play."
H.O.P.E. for Hyndman edged Tussey, 1-0, in the first round of last year's 5-A playoffs and went on to get four more games of postseason experience under its belts. In this year's rematch, Tussey had a chance to cut into the lead in the sixth when it had runners on second and third, but Erica Reffner's hard ground smash up the middle got scooped up by Lady Hornet shortstop Kiana Ray, who threw to first for the third out.
"It's really tough. We're going to miss our seniors. We all got really close. We made it this far and couldn't come up with it," Reffner said. "I think we're going to be back next year."
Rickabaugh does, too. She'll have to replace centerfielder Jess Brumbaugh in addition to Tinesha Curfman, but she felt she had two solid pitchers in her junior class and another coming up as a freshman.
"We have a good team, and we have a lot of ninth-graders coming up," Rickabaugh said. "We know what it feels like [to make it here now]."
Curfman had some advice for her returning teammates.
"Don't give up," Curfman said.
H.O.P.E. FOR HYNDMAN (7): Ringler 1b 522, Shroyer c 301, Smith cr-ph 131, Wilt cf 322, Cosgrove p 402, Sanders 3b 200, Dawson 2b 200, Dwyer dp 400, Taylor dp 000, Deneen rf 300, Merkel ph 100, May ss 300. Totals - 31-7-8.
TUSSEY MOUNTAIN (2): Reffner ss 311, Angelo c 401, Clark 3b 300, M. Curfman lf 301, J. Brumbaugh cf 300, T. Curfman p 300, Watkins 2b 200, M. Brumbaugh 1b 312, Stair rf 200, Lemin ph 101. Totals - 27-2-6.
SCORE BY INNINGS
H.O.P.E. for Hyndman101 031 1-7 8 2
Tussey Mountain000 020 0-2 6 5
E-Angelo, Sanders 2, Clark 3, Reffner. DP-H.O.P.E. for Hyndman 2. LOB-H.O.P.E. for Hyndman 9, Tussey Mountain 8. 2B-Wilt, Cosgrove, M. Brumbaugh. 3B-Smith. RBI-Sanders 2, Cosgrove, M. Curfman 2. S-Sanders 2. SB-Sanders, Dawson, Reffner, Lemin. CS-Angelo.
H.O.P.E. for Hyndman: Cosgrove (WP)-7 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 H, 4 BB, 10 SO.
Tussey Mountain: T. Curfman (LP)-7 IP, 7 R, 5 ER, 8 H, 4 BB, 4 SO.
WP-T. Curfman 3, Cosgrove 3.
Records: H.O.P.E. for Hyndman (13-8); Tussey Mountain (14-7).
Umpires: Gary Singel, plate; Dave Lowry, first; Craig Knupp, second; John Beachley, third.