State title run ends for Heights
By Todd Irwin
DUBOIS — Cambria Heights senior star pitcher Paige Jones took the first question posed to her after Punxsutawney upset the Lady Highlanders, 6-4, in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals and needed a break.
“I’m sorry. I’m just sad. Hold on,” Jones said as he she tried to hold back tears before bending over with her hands on her knees.
“I’m just sad that this run had to come to an end like this versus a team that we genuinely did think we were going to beat,” she continued. “We had all of the components to beat them, but we just didn’t put it all together today. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”
There seemed to be hope and a momentum shift toward the Lady Highlanders after they suffered through a rough start to the game with the Lady Chucks on a mostly sunny Thursday at beautiful Heindl Field.
Punxsy (11-10) scored three unearned runs thanks to two errors in the first inning. Then Ciara Toven, the Lady Chucks’ freshman hitting sensation, hit a three-run home run in the second inning for a 6-0 lead.
“We had a couple errors that don’t usually happen,” Jones said. “I gave up a home run. That’s usually doesn’t happen. We battle back though. We had girls on base. We had opportunities. We just didn’t come through.”
The Lady Highlanders, who finished 21-2, erupted for four runs against pitcher Kendal Johnston in the third inning of a slow-moving game that took 2:15 to complete. But they couldn’t score again as Jones and Johnston dueled in the pitching circle.
Jones struck out 11, walked four and gave up only one hit over the final five innings. Punxsy finished with five hits off of Jones, who was ticked off with the home plate umpire’s strike zone.
“I got frustrated,” Jones said. “That umpire would not call that outside corner for the life of him. As you guys now, that’s pretty much what I throw. When the umpire isn’t calling that, it definitely makes things a lot tougher for me and for my teammates. The inconsistency he had was just absurd.”
Back-to-back errors with one in the first inning led to Punxsy’s first run. After Jones struck out Kaylee Guidice, Elliot Ferrent tripled to left to drive in two runs.
“One error usually leads into two or three in a bad inning,” Heights coach Drew Thomas said. “Paige pitched a great game. She missed a spot one time on that home run. I felt confident the whole time.”
With runners on first and second with two outs in the second, Toven belted a Jones offering over the left field fence.
“She was a good hitter,” Jones said. “She hit that home run on a rise ball. I didn’t throw it as hard as I should have, but she had a great hit. So I’ll give it to her.”
Johnston retired the first six Heights batters before Jenna Serafin doubled to the right-center gap. After a Karin Adams one-out single put runners on the corners. Jones put down a bunt. Third baseman Ferrent unsuccessfully attempted to tag Serafin.
Serafin scored on a ground ball before Karli Storm doubled home Jones. A throwing error on a Lexi Griak ground ball led to courtesy runner Kadence DellaValle and Storm scoring, thrilling the Heights side.
Momentum had shifted, but the Lady Highlanders threatened only one more time. In the fifth, Jones led off with a walk and Westrick reached on a scorcher back at Johnston. Storm launched a shot to deep center field, but Allie Meko tracked it down.
An out later, shortstop Brooke Skarbek ran down a Maddie Bender hit into short left-center. The Cambria Heights fans thought she dropped the ball, but the out held up.
Jones reached on an error to begin the bottom of the seventh, but a pop out at home plate and fly ball to right followed. Skarbek gloved Griak’s ground ball and touched second before Jones slid into the base.
Jones sat on the base as the Lady Chucks began to celebrate.
Later, the Lady Highlanders, who earned the program’s fist District 6 title in their first title game appearance, gathered outside of the stadium one last time. It was the final game for seniors Jones, Emma Stockley, Westrick, Beth White and Abbie Baker.
“The first thing I told them was I was proud of them,” Thomas said. “Down six like that early, a lot of teams would have just folded. They didn’t do it. They kept battling.”
“I’m devastated,” shortstop Stockley said, “because we could have had that win. But I’m so unbelievably proud of our team for making it this far. We made history at Cambria Heights, and I couldn’t be prouder of that.”
Punxsutawney (6): Weaver lf 400, Johnston p 311, Rittenhouse cr 010, Toven 1b 422, Shiock c 301, Houser cr 010, Guidice dp 300, Ferrent 3b 301, Meko cf 100, Dobbins rf 200, Skarbek ss 310, Hoffman 2b 000. Totals: 26-6-5.
Cambria Heights (4): Jones p 310, Westrick c 401, DellaValle cr 010, Storm 2b 411, Griak dp 400, Bender 3b 301, Stockley ss 301, Serafin rf 311, M. White cf 300, Adams lf 301, Kinney 1b 000. Totals: 30-4-6.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Punxsutawney 330 000 0–6 5 2
Cambria Heights 004 000 0–4 6 2
Errors–Ferrent, Skarbek; Storm 2. 2B–Shiock; Storm, Serafin 3B–Ferrent. HR–Toven. RBIs–Toven 3, Ferrent 2, Shiock; Westrick, Storm. SAC–Shiock. SB–Skarbek. CS–Meko (by Westrick). LOB–Punxsutawney 4, Cambria Heights 5
Punxsutawney: Johnston (W)–7 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO.
Cambria Heights: Jones (L)–7 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 11 SO.
Records: Punxsutawney (11-10); Cambria Heights (21-2)
Time of Game: 2:15