PORTAGE - The thunder that surrounded Portage Area High School Monday eventually subsided to allow the District 6 playoff softball game between the Mustangs and Conemaugh Valley to commence - but the Mustangs didn't stop making noise.
Even though the No. 6 Blue Jays jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the Class A first-round game, No. 3 Portage answered with five runs in the bottom of the second on its way to a 9-4 victory.
The teams, both in the WestPAC North, split the regular season series, each with marginal victories.
"I was just wondering which team was going to show up," Portage coach Bryan Jubina said. "Luckily the girls came out swinging. We set the tone early that we were going to hit the ball."
Portage's offense began with an Emily McCabe leadoff double in the second inning. McCabe scored on an RBI-single by Mustangs pitcher Haley Heidler. An outfield error on a ball hit by Kaitlyn Jubina later in the inning drove in two more runs, and a Savannah Layo two-run single finished the inning offensively for Portage.
With a lead in place, Heidler struck out five Lady Jay batters and stranded seven runners. All but two of those runners were left in scoring position.
"You can't leave those girls on base. That's what hurts," Lady Jays coach Paula McCleester said. "We fought that for a while. We were struggling with it at the end of the season."
Conemaugh Valley had the bases loaded in the sixth inning, but Heidler struck out pinch hitter Becca LaBar to get out of the jam and preserve the then-six-run lead.
Kaitlyn Jubina finished 2-for-2 for the Mustangs, reaching base in all three at-bats, with two runs and three RBIs, while twin sister Courtney Jubina scored two runs on a double and a walk. Heidler also went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI, while McCabe, too, was 2-for-3 with one run and one RBI. Layo finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
Bobbie Sue Kist led Conemaugh Valley (11-7), going 3-for-3. She opened the game with a leadoff double and reached base in all four at-bats.
Portage (16-5) goes on to face Southern Huntingdon, which defeated West Branch, 5-0, in the first round Monday. While the Mustangs have reached the second round in the past, it's been tough for them to win there, and they're looking forward to the challenge of the second-seeded Rockets.
"We're looking forward to Thursday, no doubt about it," Bryan Jubina said.
CONEMAUGH VALLEY (4): Kist cf 433, Cekada ss 401, L. Stiffler 3b 401, Novak 2b 402, Lint p 201, Dobrota 3b 200, Vogel c 300, K. Stiffler 1b 301, Gutskey lf 300, Kelley rf 210, LaBar ph 100. Totals - 32-4-9.
PORTAGE (9): Layo 2b 402, Zatek ss 410, Kissell 3b 400, McCabe rf 412, Gorba 1b 300, Cadwallader ph 101, Heidler p 422, Forst cf 311, C. Jubina 321, K. Jubina 322. Totals 34-9-11.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Conemaugh Valley100 020 1-4 9 5
Portage050 220 x-9 11 2
E-Vogel 2, Kist, Kelley, Cekada, K. Jubina, Zatek. DP-Portage 2. LOB-Conemaugh Valley 7, Portage 6. 2B-Kist, McCabe, C. Jubina. RBI-Layo 3, K. Jubina 3, Cekada 2, McCabe, Heidler, L. Stiffler, Novak. SB-K. Stiffler.
Conemaugh Valley: Lint (L): 5 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO; Novak-1 IP, 1H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO.
Portage: Heidler (W): 7 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO.
Team records: Conemaugh Valley (11-7); Portage (16-5).
Umpires: Dan Olshavsky, plate; Jim Davis, first; Tony Olshavsky, third.