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WH pitcher a Thorn-ton in the side of Highlander hitters

By John Hartsock

jhartsock@altoonamirror.com

JOHNSTOWN — Cambria Heights had very realistic aspirations of returning to the District 6 Class 3A softball title game this year and defending the district championship it had won last spring.

Westmont Hilltop senior pitcher Bailey Thornton dashed those hopes for the Lady Highlanders Thursday afternoon.

Thornton threw a one-hit complete-game shutout, striking out four and walking none, as second-seeded Westmont carved out a 3-0 semifinal victory over third-seeded Heights on the Westmont Hilltop High School softball field.

Westmont (18-2) will play fourth-seeded Bald Eagle Area for the district championship next Thursday at 1 p.m. on the Saint Francis University softball field. Regardless of the outcome in that game, both of those teams will advance to the state tournament.

Bald Eagle Area punched its ticket to the championship game with a 7-0 semifinal victory over top-seeded Central on Thursday.

Cambria Heights, which managed only a fourth-inning double from designated hitter Kenna Rogal, finished its season at 17-2.

“Westmont is a heck of a team and their pitcher (Thornton) pitched a great game,” Heights coach Drew Thomas said. “Offensively, we just didn’t adjust to what she was throwing, and as the coach, I’ll take the blame for that.”

Thornton’s plan was to work the outside of the plate against Heights, and it turned out to be an effective strategy for the right-hander.

“We wanted to pitch outside, and all my outside pitches worked — everything fell into place,” Thornton said. “My defense played great, and our offense got some timely hits.”

Heights senior right-hander Jenna Serafin also pitched well, spacing seven hits and allowing only one earned run, while not walking a batter and striking out two.

Westmont pushed across the only run it needed in the third inning when senior first baseman Chloe Hoffman reached second base on an error, was wild-pitched to third, and scored on senior centerfielder Makenna Oswalt’s sacrifice fly.

Westmont made it 2-0 with another unearned run in the fifth inning. Hoffman singled, reached second on a fielder’s choice, advanced to third on left-fielder Kelli Sheehan’s single and scored when second baseman Kendall Shingler’s fly ball was misplayed.

Westmont added an insurance run in the sixth inning on a solo homer to center by sophomore right fielder Quinn Kuzmiak.

First-year Westmont coach Monica Cox, a Greensburg native who had previously served as an assistant softball coach at District 7 Hempfield High School, was visibly emotional after the game.

“This is an amazing group of girls,” Cox said. “At the beginning of this season, these girls weren’t giving themselves a chance of doing much of anything, but they’ve worked so hard for this.

“I just moved here, and because of these players, this place now feels like home to me,” Cox added.

Junior left-fielder Karin Adams was a defensive star in the game for Cambria Heights. Adams initiated two double plays after catching fly balls – including one after a spectacular outstretched grab in the first inning that very likely prevented two Westmont runs from scoring.

Thomas had no trouble finding a silver lining after the game for Heights, which has won 39 games over the past two seasons.

“I was telling the girls after this game that we have 39 wins in two seasons, and a lot of kids go through their whole careers without getting that many wins,” Thomas said. “This hurts now, but any time that you win 17 games in a season, it’s a great season.”

CAMBRIA HEIGHTS (0): White cf 300, Storm ss 300, Griak 1b 300, Rogal dh 301, M. Bender 3b 300, Serafin p 300, Kinney rf 200, E. Bender 2b 200, Adams lf 200, Bernecky c (flex) 000. Totals – 24-0-1.

WESTMONT HILLTOP (3): Sheehan lf 301, Shingler 2b 301, Lynch ss 302, Seda Fas 3b 300, Thornton p 300, Kuzmiak rf 311, Dixon c 301, Hess cr 000, Hoffman 1b 221, Oswalt cf 100. Totals – 24-3-7.

SCORE BY INNINGS

Cambria Heights 000 000 0–0-1-2

Westmont Hilltop 001 011 X–3-7-3

2B–Rogal, Shingler, Lynch. SF–Oswalt. RBI–Oswalt, Kuzmiak. LOB–Westmont Hilltop 4, Cambria Heights 3. DP–Cambria Heights turned two double plays, Westmont none.

PITCHING

Cambria Heights: Serafin (L) 6IP, 7H, 3R, 1ER, 2SO; 0BB.

Westmont Hilltop: Thornton (W) 7IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 4SO, 0BB.

Records: Cambria Heights (17-2), Westmont Hilltop (18-2).

Umpires: Jason Dorofey (plate); Wes Meyers (1b); Rich Horner (3b).

Time of game: 1:16.

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