LORETTO — At the beginning of the week, the Clearfield Lady Bison had one PIAA state playoff win, which occurred in 2000.
They now have three.
After holding off Chestnut Ridge for a 4-3 win on Monday, the Lady Bison jumped out to an early 2-0 lead against WPIAL champion Avonworth yesterday at Saint Francis University and held on for a 2-1 victory to advance to the semifinals of the PIAA 3A softball championship.
“Hats off to these girls,” Clearfield head coach Derek Danver said. “I don’t know how they stay calm in these situations. I know that the coaching staff isn’t staying calm in the dugout. But, they’ve got it done two games in a row and to be moving on in the state tournament is awesome.”
Lady Bison pitcher Emma Hipps pitched a complete- game gem, giving up only three hits, one run and had eight strikeouts against an Avonworth team that was 20-2 on the season heading in.
“She has ice in her veins,” Danver said of Hipps. “She’s so poised out there. The last inning there and I believe it was the fifth inning, (Avonworth) had runners on third with less than two outs and she came up huge. She doesn’t let anything affect her. She just goes out there and battles and she wins.”
With Clearfield on top 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, the Lady Antelopes had runners on second and third with one out in the heart of its order. But Danver called for Hipps to intentionally walk the number three hitter — pitcher Sarah Helffrich.
From there, Hipps got cleanup hitter Maya Kozup to strikeout and then Leah Logan hit one to third baseman Casey English, who stepped on the bag for the force out.
“That was huge,” Danver said. “They had their three hitter up and I had confidence that Hipps could go and get their four and five hitter. Not that I didn’t have confidence that she could get (Helffrich). I know their three hitter is a great hitter and I didn’t want to take any chances.”
The Lady Bison set the tone early in the top of the first inning. Leadoff hitter Karly Rumsky got a walk and with two outs, Olivia Bender got a base hit and Avonworth shortstop Domi Raught threw it away, as Rumsky was able to make it home from second base on the play.
On the next at bat, Lauren Ressler roped a double that one hopped off the left/center field wall and brought home courtesy runner Alyssa Twigg for a quick 2-0 lead.
“We lost the coin flip again ... and we had to be the visiting team,” Danver said. “I said to these girls, ‘Hey, that’s a good thing. We’re going to go out there, we’re going to score first and set the tone of this game. We did that.”
Those two runs would be all they would get — but it was just enough to move on. The Lady Bison did have other opportunities to put more runs on the board but were unable to capitalize. The score was still 2-0 in the top of the fourth when Clearfield loaded the bases with two outs, but Helffrich was able to get Rumsky to ground out. Clearfield also had at least one runner on base in six of the seven innings.
“We did cool off a little bit through the middle of the game but we did enough defensively,” Danver said. “Hipps did a great job on the mound to hold them off. It was a great job all around and a great team win.”
Avonworth got its lone run of the game in the fourth inning with a sacrifice fly to deep center by Cat Barie. But on what was a staple of the game, the Lady Bison got out of that jam as Hipps got Abby Stanley to fly out to first base.
In the bottom of the seventh — and once again against the heart of the Lady Antelope order — leadoff hitter Domi Raught grounded out but the number two hitter Natalie Marshall hit a triple to right field, putting the tying run at third and the winning run at the plate. Hipps then got Helffrich to strikeout and Kozup hit a hard line drive to shortstop Kyra Mollura, who snagged it for the game-ending out.
The Lady Bison improved to 14-9 on the season and have now made it farther than any other softball team in the history of the program.
“We’re making history at this point,” Danver said. “I’m confident (against) whoever we play. This team has come together, they’re playing really well and they have a lot of confidence.”
Danver said he’s been overly impressed with his team in this playoff run, as well as what they did during the regular season.
“I’m just proud of how relaxed they’ve been,” Danver said. “They act like they’ve been in this situation 100 times and it’s the first time our school has ever been to this point — especially with how young they are. Shout out to Karly Rumsky for being the leader and the ‘mom’ of the younger girls and taking them under her wing, keeping them in the game and keeping them motivated.”
Clearfield will now face (Bald Eagle/Keystone Oaks) on Monday in a semifinal matchup.
“I can’t say enough about these girls and how hard they work, how they’re in to this and how motivated they are,” Danver said. “I’m just proud of them.”
Rumsky cf 3110, Cheek lf 4010, Hipps p 3000, Bender c 4010, Twigg pr 0100, Ressler 1b 3011, Mollura ss 2010, English 3b 2000, Benton rf 3010, Hertlein 2b 2000. Totals: 26-2-6-1.
Raught ss 3010, Marshall 2b 4010, Helffrich p 2100, Kozup cf 3000, Logan c 2000, Fissore 3b 3000, Barie lf 2001, Stanley rf 3000, Davis dp 3010, Perry 1b-flex 0000. Totals: 25-1-3-1.
Score by Innings
Clearfield 200 000 0—2 6 2
Avonworth 000 100 0—1 3 2
Errors: Ressler, English. Raught, Perry. LOB—Clearfield 7, Avonworth 8. 3B—Marshall. 2B—Ressler. IBB—Helffrich. HBP—Kozup. Mollura. SB—Raught. SAC—Barie.
Clearfield: Hipps—7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 8 SO.
Avonworth: Helffrich—7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 4 SO.
WP—Hipps (13-8). LP—Helffrich.