Extra-inning thriller doesn’t go B-A’s way

UNIVERSITY PARK – Taylor Shildt had been coming through in white-knuckle situations all afternoon for the Bellwood-Antis Lady Blue Devils.

Perhaps the most poise the senior right-handed pitcher showed came when she had to relive the disappointment just moments after Bellefonte scored the winning run on a ninth-inning wild pitch to deny her team a second straight District 6 Class AAA softball championship in heartbreaking fashion, 2-1, at Penn State Softball Park and Beard Field on Wednesday.

“It’s frustrating. We worked so hard for it,” Shildt said calmly. “I was really hoping (to win) it. It’s my senior season, and I didn’t want it to end.”

The second-seeded Lady Devils, playing up in classification, finished the season 17-4, one year removed from making it to the PIAA final four. Bellwood-Antis outhit the No. 1 seed Lady Raiders, 6-5, drew two more walks, turned the game’s only double play and came up with the only extra-base hit of the contest: Shildt’s RBI triple in the top of the third.

However, B-A couldn’t parlay that into a victory. Bellefonte took advantage when Alexis Wetzler drew just the second walk Shildt yielded to lead off the bottom of the ninth, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and went to third as Laycee Clark mishandled a grounder at short.

It seemed Bellwood dodged a bullet after Angela Capparelle’s popup was lost in the sun by Bellwood third baseman Eden Convery and Wetzler crossed the plate, but the ball took a sideways hop by the base and was ruled foul. The Lady Devils’ sigh of relief was short-lived – Shildt’s 1-2 offering was high, tipped off catcher Caroline Showalter’s glove and went to the backstop, and, when Wetzler scored this time, it was allowed.

“It was a fastball, and it just kind of stuck in my hand a little bit too long,” said Shildt, the Pitt-Johnstown recruit who struck out eight. “It went up a little bit, and Caroline wasn’t ready for it.”

Wetzler scored Bellefonte’s other run, too, tying the game in the bottom of the fourth.

“I knew I had to go,” Wetzler said. “I’m one of the faster girls on the team. I just know I had to help the team and give it everything I have. It feels great.”

Now 16-6, Bellefonte will meet the winner of today’s WPIAL championship game between Mount Pleasant and West Allegheny on Monday. Wednesday’s victory avenged a 5-1 loss to the Lady Devils last year when Bellwood scored four times in the bottom of the sixth.

“This team was more focused than any team I’ve ever coach. This was their goal all year,” Lady Raiders coach Fred Caldwell said after Bellefonte won its 17th District 6 title. “The girls talked about how much a bitter taste (last year) left.”

Making it tougher for the Lady Devils to take was that they had some good chances they weren’t able to cash in. Bellwood got the leadoff runner on base in both the eighth and ninth but popped out on sacrifice bunt attempts. Shildt was stranded at third in both the third and the eighth.

“It’s a shame it ended this way, but somebody has to win, and somebody has to lose,” B-A coach Jim Payne said. “You don’t want to pin it on one, two or three plays. We had a couple of other opportunities. (Bellefonte pitcher Tara) Baney pitched a good game.”

Baney showed off her athleticism in the top of the third, making a huge defensive play. Bellwood’s Sarah Knisely dropped a bunt so perfect trying to advance pinch-runner Myranda Mamat that three infielders converged, none with a play anywhere.

Seeing no one covering third, Mamat alertly tried to move up two bases. Baney, though, was up to the moment – she ran to the bag and was waiting there to tag Mamat out.

On the very next pitch, Shildt smashed the first pitch over Capparelle to the fence in center. Knisely scored without a play, and Shildt, hot on her heels, held up standing at third. Had Baney not gotten Mamat out, Bellwood would have been up 2-0 with no outs and its two, three and four hitters due up and Shildt on third.

Baney kept pace with Shildt, striking out 11.

“You just have to stay calm,” Baney said.

Shildt was masterful. Baney almost evened the score in the bottom of the inning when she crushed one over the left-field fence, but it was just foul. Shildt battled back, not giving in and eventually getting the Lady Raider pitcher to popout right in front of the plate.

Two other times, Shildt retired the dangerous Baney with runners on base and less than two outs.

“She’s an all-around great player, and every time we needed her to step up, she stepped up,” Showalter said of Shildt, who was the only player in the game with two hits. “She meant a lot to this team.”

Bellefonte evened the game at 1-1 in the fifth, as Wetzler, Riana Trexler and Samantha Gates strung together consecutive one-out singles. Trexler and Gates got into scoring position on a passed ball, but Shildt got out of it by inducing Capparelle to line softly to Clark at short before striking out designated player Emma DeHaas.

Bellwood got this close with five seniors, one of whom was injured: Shildt, Showalter, Clark, Convery and Kelcie Dennis.

“We’re going to have to rebuild and get back at it,” Payne said.

“To get this far means a lot to us. We’re only the third Bellwood team to make it here,” Shildt said. “It feels pretty good. I just wish we had come through.”

BELLWOOD-ANTIS (1): Shildt p 402, McElwain cf 400, Convery 3b 300, Showalter c 301, Miller 1b 300, Clark ss 401, Taylor 2b 401, Heaton dp 200, Mamat rf-pr-ph (flex) 000, S. Knisely lf 411. Totals – 31-1-6.

BELLEFONTE (2): Baney p 401, Bernier 2b 300, Wetzler ss 221, Trexler 3b 201, Gates lf 301, Capparelle cf 300, DeHaas dp 300, Maurer 1b (flex) 000, Ault c 300, Rockey rf 301. Totals – 26-2-5.

SCORE BY INNINGS

Bellwood-Antis001 000 000-1 6 2

Bellefonte000 100 001-2 5 0

One out when winning run scored.

E-Shildt, Clark. DP-Bellwood-Antis 1. LOB-Bellwood-Antis 8, Bellefonte 5. 3B-Shildt. RBI-Shildt, Gates. SAC-Bernier, Mamat, Trexler. CS-Rockey.

PITCHING

Bellwood-Antis: Shildt (L)-81/3 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO.

Bellefonte: Baney (W)-9 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 11 SO.

WP-Shildt. PB-Showalter.

Records: Bellwood-Antis (17-3); Bellefonte (15-6).

Umpires: Frank Ferra, plate; Bob Frederick, first; Pete Fry, second; Bob Valyo, third.