HR ignites Claysburg
PORTAGE — Claysburg-Kimmel’s Rebekah Claar had been struggling at the plate in recent weeks, and the freshman had been putting a lot of pressure on herself to break out of her slump.
With her team leading by three in the fifth inning after Portage stole momentum, Claar broke out in a big way with a three-run homer to center field to give herself and her team the spark they needed.
Third-seeded C-K erupted for seven runs in the top of the fifth to turn a close game into a rout as the Lady Bulldogs advanced to the District 6 Class 1A championship against Glendale with a 20-4 six-inning victory over the second-seeded Lady Mustangs on Thursday.
“She’s been really, really struggling … She was at practice, and her head’s all over the place,” Claysburg-Kimmel coach Mike Barbarini said. “We worked on keeping her eye on the ball and driving the ball. She got her pitch there and drove it over. That was a big, big hit for us at that point in time.”
The homer, which came with one out and was the first of the year for Claar, followed up back-to-back singles from Madison Knisley and Madison Frye to get the Lady Bulldogs’ offense rolling in the inning.
“I haven’t been hitting all year, pretty much. So, everyone was talking to me, and I was getting frustrated. They just kept saying, ‘do what you can do,'” Claar said. “So, I just said, ‘Ok.’ I just watched the ball in, and it just happened … I know it’s my home run, but I did it for the team — that’s all that matters.”
Megan Hartman, the next batter, lined out to Olivia Kissell at first before the Lady Bulldogs started a two-out rally with Emily Claar singling up the middle.
Jazmin Kennedy reached on an error before Harleigh Cavender smacked a blast of her own over the fence to stretch the lead to 11-2.
Haileigh Reed reached on an error, before having Kassidi Rininger courtesy run for her. Corryne Weyandt then drove in Rininger with a single on the next at-bat.
“It changed momentum. They (Portage) had momentum, and we re-established momentum there and added on,” Barbarini said. “Everybody just seemed to feed off of her (Claar) hitting that home run.”
Claysburg-Kimmel appeared ready to end the game with a 10-run lead after five innings, but with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, the Lady Mustangs’ Emma Kissell hit a fly ball to short right field that dropped for a single.
“That kind of gave us more life. We got everyone in the dugout, and we actually pointed to what Conemaugh Valley did in the first round against Penns Manor where they scored seven runs in that sixth inning,” Portage coach Brian Randall said. “I said, ‘Now’s our time. We’re going to do that same thing.’ We believed that, and we battled through. Unfortunately, on the defensive side of the ball, we couldn’t hold that up.”
Rather than end the game, Karli Karalfa, who hit her first homer of the year the previous inning, launched another one to make the score 12-4 — thus continuing the game for another inning.
While another inning meant new life and hope for a Portage comeback, it also meant yet another chance for the hot Lady Bulldogs’ bats to continue their tear.
Eight more Claysburg players crossed the plate in the top of the sixth as Kennedy collected an RBI, followed by a ground-rule double by Cavender that plated both Hartman and Emily Claar.
“They’re an offensive juggernaut that can hit 1-9 (in the lineup). We knew that coming in,” Randall said.
Reed, who crushed a homer in the second inning to give Claysburg-Kimmel a 5-0 lead, destroyed another to deep center — this one a three-run blast to make the score 18-4.
“Hopefully, they gained some confidence from this because we did have some hitters that were struggling through the past couple of games — they hit well today,” Barbarini said.
Weyandt scored on an error before Frye doubled home Knisley to set the final.
Randall used three pinch-hitters in the sixth, but they were retired in order to close out the game.
Claysburg, which registered 19 hits, grabbed control in the first inning by plating four runs.
“We hit the ball a little more dominant today than we have most of the year,” Barbarini said. “We put back-to-back hits together. We didn’t have to play so much small ball because we were hitting the ball on the line.”
The Lady Bulldogs chased starting pitcher Olivia Kissell after just • of an inning. Kissell later re-entered in the sixth.
Claysburg-Kimmel moves into next Thursday’s title game against Inter-County Conference North Division rival and top-seeded Glendale — a team it split with during the regular season.
“The best two teams are probably in the finals … I look for a close game,” Barbarini said.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (20): E. Claar ss 532, Kennedy rf 532, Cavender c 433, Reed 3b 522, Rininger cr 010, Weyandt lf 522, Knisley 1b 412, Garver cr 010, Frye 513, R. Claar 321, Hartman cf 412. Totals — 40 20 19.
PORTAGE (4): Shaffer 2b-p-2b 311, Sossong ph 100, Dividock ss 201, Chobany ph 100, Swank 301, Benton 3b-lf-rf 100, Crum c 300, E. Kissell cf 311, Karalfa lf-rf 322, O. Kissell p-1b-rf-p 200, Giordano cr 000, Sease rf 200, Pawvluk ph 100. Totals — 25 4 6.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Claysburg-Kimmel 410 078 X–20 19 0
Portage 001 120 X–4 6 8
E–Shaffer 2, Karalfa, Benton, O. Kissell 2, Sease 2. 2B–E. Claar, Frye, Shaffer. HR–Reed 2, R. Claar, Cavender, Karalfa 2. RBI–Kennedy 2, Weyandt 3, Hartman, Reed 4, R. Claar 3, Cavender 4, Frye, Karalfa 2, Swank. SB–Kennedy. CS–Kennedy, Cavender. WP–Bushore. LP–O. Kissell. BB–Bushore 5, O. Kissell 2, Swank
Claysburg-Kimmel: Bushore (WP) — 6 innings, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 9 SO.
Portage: O. Kissell (LP) — 1 inning, 6 H, 9 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO
Swank — 4 1/3 innings, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1BB, 2 SO
Shaffer — 2/3 innings, 4 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 0 SO