UNIVERSITY PARK - After the Bellwood-Antis High School softball team played like a collection of seasoned playoff veterans in its emotional District 6 Class A championship game win over favored Claysburg-Kimmel last week, maybe a repeat performance was just too much to expect.
The very things that enabled the Lady Devils to win districts and reach the state tournament for the first time - sure fielding, heady baserunning and clutch hitting - turned out to be their undoing in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. They finally looked like a young team playing its biggest games ever in a 4-1 loss to District 10 champion Saegertown on Monday afternoon at an overcast Nittany Lion Park and Beard Field.
Kelsey Shawley's game-tying homer over the center-field wall in the second inning accounted for Bellwood's only run. The Lady Devils finished the season 20-4.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
B-A pitcher Taylor Payne tags out Saegertown’s Rachel DiBartolomeo at home after receiving the throw from catcher Jacqueline Finn after an overthrow.
"We usually come through. But we can't be upset about anything. We're district champs. We've done it all. We're still going to keep our heads up,'' Lady Devil pitcher Taylor Payne said. "[Nervousness] was definitely a part, because we know how big states is, and we know we needed to pull through.
"It's just our time to be done.''
The game was knotted at 1 until the Lady Panthers scored an unearned run in the top of the fifth after Payne had retired the first two hitters. Saegertown got two insurance runs - one of those unearned, too - in the next inning on a suicide squeeze bunt that probably shouldn't have resulted in any scoring.
Bellwood had its chances with the bat, as well. However, B-A left four runners on base from the fourth through the sixth innings, ran into an out on a play in which the tying run could have scored in the fifth and had a promising rally thwarted in the fourth when Lady Panther third baseman Hallie Kirdahy made a great diving catch of Lauren Snyder's pop bunt in front of the plate and turned it into a double play.
"Every game is tough from here on in. You make mistakes, it's going to cost you. Saegertown is good. They'll make you pay for those mistakes. And they did. They played the better game,'' Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Payne said.
Improving to 20-2, the Lady Panthers advanced to play Chartiers Houston in the state quarterfinals behind Arianna Hanley's five-hit pitching. Hanley also scored twice, once after tripling to lead off the sixth after being credited with an inside-the-park homer in the first when the cutoff throw on her drive over the right fielder got away from the second baseman.
"After they tied it, 1-1, I had no doubts that we could come back. Our defense could take care of it, and then we could get our bats going, get little ones and bunts and use our speed,'' Hanley said. "That's what our coach has us work on. Even if you aren't going to go to the next base, make them think you are going to the next base, so they throw it around. Errors happen.
"We were nervous, but we were confident that we were a good team playing a really good team. We felt we matched well with them, and it was just a coin toss who would have won.''
The breaks turned against Bellwood in the fifth. Saegertown's Becca Snyder blooped a two-out single and got to third when Rachel DiBartolomeo looped a double down the right-field line. After the next pitch to Hanley, Lady Devil freshman catcher Jacqueline Finn tried to pick Snyder off third, but the throw went into left field.
Sara Davinsizer might have had a shot to gun down Snyder at the plate, but her throw went over Finn to the backstop. Finn did recover in time to get DiBartolomeo trying to score.
Hanley then tripled to open the top of the sixth, and Lady Panther coach Mark McKissock called for Loryn Mazurik to bunt to get an insurance run. Mazurik's hit went right back hard to Taylor Payne, who wheeled and faked a throw to first before coming home. However, DiBartolomeo already had broken from third, and Payne had no play at the plate - her rushed throw to first then got by Shawley, and Mazurik came all the way around to score.
"We prepared,'' Jim Payne said. "We just made mistakes that they took advantage of.''
In the bottom of the fifth, Saegertown took advantage on defense. Kelsey Decker and Meghan McCaulley opened the inning with singles and were on second and third after Anna Wolfe's one-out bunt. Finn hit a grounder into the hole at short, but Mazurik tossed to Kirdahy to tag out McCaulley before Decker could score the tying run.
Bellwood made some defensive magic of its own in the second, when Lauren Snyder made a great play at short to get the Lady Devils out of an inning unscathed. Then Shawley, who doubled twice in the 6-A final win over Claysburg, smashed a Hanley pitch over the center-field wall to tie it.
"I thought we were going to win. I thought we took all their momentum,'' said Taylor Payne, who struck out eight and walked none. "That was a pretty hard hit. It was awesome.''
Shawley, who later singled, is one of five Lady Devil seniors, including fellow starters Davinsizer and McCaulley.
"We've just got to hang our hats on the season that we had,'' Jim Payne said. "We've got to hope that maybe next year we can come back again.''
SAEGERTOWN (4): DiBartolomeo c 402, Hanley p 422, Mazurik ss 211, Kirdahy 3b 200, C. Lilly cf 301, E. Lilly 2b 302, Newman pr 000, Tomiczek dp 200, Garris ph 100, M. Parker 1b (flex) 000, Eckart lf 100, Snyder rf 301. Totals -25-4-9.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (1): Nagle cf 400, Wolfe 2b 200, Finn c 300, Shawley 1b 312, Kirkpatrick pr 000, Payne p 201, Snyder ss 300, Fraser dp 201, Davinsizer lf (flex) 000, Decker 3b 301, Me. McCaulley rf 301. Totals -25-1-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Saegertown100 012 0-4 9 2
Bellwood-Antis010 000 0-1 5 2
E-Finn, Mazurik, Payne, E. Lilly. DP-Saegertown, Bellwood-Antis. LOB-Saegertown 4, Bellwood-Antis 6. 2B-DiBartolomeo, C. Lilly. 3B-Hanley. HR-Hanley, Shawley. RBI-Hanley, Shawley. SAC-Kirdahy, Eckart, Wolfe, Mazurik. SB-Newman, E. Lilly.
Hanley (W)7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO
Payne (L)7 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO
Team records: Saegertown (20-2); Bellwood-Antis (20-4).
Umpires: Mark Gormont, plate; John Rosselli, first; Jim Rupp, second; Gary Miller, third.