STRATTANVILLE — Coaches talk all the time about “team victories.”
Sometimes it can just be coachspeak, but the DuBois Central Catholic softball team’s 18-3, 4-inning dismantling of Carmichaels Tuesday in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs at Clarion-Limestone High School was the epitome of that term.
After a shaky top of the first that saw the Mighty Mikes grab a 3-0 lead after using three doubles to capitalize on two DCC errors, it was all Lady Cardinals from there.
Central Catholic responded with three runs of its own in the bottom half of the first, taking advantage of three Carmichaels errors with a pair of doubles itself. The inning was just a prelude of what was to come, as DCC exploded for 16 hits — nine that went for extra bases — in just 3 2/3 innings in a 15-run mercy-rule win over the Mighty Mikes.
Carmichaels didn’t do itself any favors, as it committed seven errors around those 16 hits to aide in the Lady Cardinals’ offensive explosion that featured contributions up an down the lineup.
In particular, the bottom half of the lineup enjoyed a big day, as the sixth through eighth spots in the order went a combined 8-for-11 with three doubles, a triple and seven RBIs.
Senior Libby Maurer (No. 6 in order) finished the day 2-for-4 with three RBIs, while sophomore Alyssa Bittner (No. 7) was 2-for-3 with two doubles and one RBI. Bittner ended the game with a walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the fourth — a hit that would have scored a second run had the 15-run mercy rule not ended the game.
Fellow sophomore Carley Semancik, who pinch-hit for Bittner in the second inning, delivered a two-run triple as part of a seven-run inning for the Lady Cardinals. Freshman Maia Cogley (No. 8 batter) added a 3-for-3 day with a double and RBI.
Central Catholic also got production from its usual suspects at the top of the order. Senior leadoff hitter Macey Hanes went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a RBI and three runs scored. Fellow senior Jordy Frank was 2-for-3 with a RBI double and three runs.
Sophomore Ashley Wruble and freshman Shayleigh Gulvas added a triple and double, respectively, with both knocking in a pair of runs.
The outpouring of runs proved to be more than enough for Assalone, who settled in after allowing the three runs (one earned) in the first inning. The Mighty Mikes mustered just one hit and three runners over the final three innings, with no Carmichaels runner advancing past first base.
With the win, DCC advances to Thursday’s state quarterfinals against Commodore Perry The District 10 champs beat Monesson (WPIAL runner-up), 7-2, Tuesday.
That game will be played at Hickory High School at 2 p.m. and follows a noon Class 6A contest between McDowell and Hempfield.
“We gave up three runs in that first inning, and that surprised me,” said DCC coach George Heigel. “That hasn’t happened all year, and probably hasn’t happened in two years frankly. So, that put us back on our heels a little bit.
“Between the two teams, we booted the ball around in the first inning really bad. But, we came of the field after the top of the first, and I said, ‘There’s no way three runs is going to beat us. We don’t have to score all three right now.’”
“It ended up we did score three runs in the first inning and kept adding to it. A lot of it was we were just effective (on offense). We executed on our small ball, we moved runners over, stole some bases.
“And, we squared the ball up pretty well today. They (Carmichaels) helped (with errors), and I think their nerves got the best of them. That happens. I remember four years ago when we were here we gave up nine runs in our first game of the state playoffs. That happens when you have a young team.
“That’s a good team though. They just didn’t play well today.”
And, the performance by the bottom of the order wasn’t lost on Heigel, both Tuesday and in recent weeks.
“The last seven, eight, 10 games, the bottom of our lineup has been very effective,” he said. “If you take out the Punxsy game, I think we’ve only had like 14 of 15 strikeouts all year long in 22 games.
“So, we put the ball in play and that wasn’t a surprise today. But, six through nine (in order) — and even a couple of our substitutions — hit the ball real hard today. We’ve spent a lot of time in the cages though, and literally, we’ve practiced four times in the last 24 hours (with rainout).”
While things ended well for DCC, the start was a polar opposite as Carmichaels came out firing on all cylinders.
Megan Walker led off the game with a double to left, then pitcher Kylie Sinn reached on an error. Both runners moved up on a groundout before Walker scored on a Gina Ranieri double to left.
Morgan Faddis followed with a double of her own to deep left-center, plating both Sin nand Ranieri. Faddis ended up at third on the play on an errant throw back into the infield.
Assalone stopped the damage there, getting a strikeout and popup to Wruble at second to end the inning.
Central Catholic wasted little time answering back in the bottom half of the inning.
Hanes ripped a leadoff double to center and quickly scored on a double to left by Frank, who in turn scored on a single by Assalone. Wruble then hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Assalone from the bases.
The Lady Cardinals weren’t done in the inning though, as Wruble stole second and went to third when Maurer reached on a two-out error that extended the inning.
Catcher Walker then tried to pickoff Wruble at third, but her throw sailed into left field, allowing Wruble to race home to tie the score at 3-3. Sinn finally got out of the inning with a strikeout of Bittner.
Carmichaels tried to counter in the second, with Shelbee McCann smacking a leadoff single to right. However, she was gunned down trying to steal second by Frank — a play that seemed to take some wind out of the Mighty Mikes.
Carmichaels managed just two more runners the rest of the way on a one-out walk in the third by Natalie McNett and an ensuing fielder’s choice that erased McNett at second.
Central Catholic had no such problems with base runners, as the Lady Cardinals erupted for 15 runs annd 13 hits over the finals 2 2/3 innings.
The Lady Cards scored nearly half those runs — seven to be exact — in the second inning.
Cogley opened the inning with a double to right that dropped in behind the right fielder. Spencer then put down a sacrifice bunt that turned into more when Walker’s throw went all the way into the right-field corner.
Cogley scored on the play, while Spencer raced all the way around to third. Hanes followed with a double to right-center that plated Spencer. Frank then reached when the left fielder dropped a line drive hit right at her, with Frank ending up at second.
That brought up Assalone, who put down a bunt. Sinn elected to fake a throw to first and looked towards third, as the fielder’s choice loaded the bases. Wruble forced home a run with a bases-loaded walk, while Gulvas scored another on a fielder’s choice.
After Sinn struck out Maurer, Semancik pinch-hit for Bittner and blasted a triple to right field that chased home Assalone and Gulvas. Cogley capped the inning with a single to center to score Semancik to put DCC up 10-3 after two innings.
The Lady Cardinals added to their lead with three two-out runs in the third.
Assalone got things started with a two-out walk and scored on a triple into the right-field corner by Wruble. A double to right by Gulvas plated Wruble, while Gulvas came home on a single by Maurer.
Bittner followed with her first double of the game, but Maurer was thrown out trying to score to end the inning.
Central ended the game with five more runs in the fourth.
The Lady Cardinals loaded the bases with one out before scoring a run on a fielder’s choice error. Maurer added a two-run single, while Bittner ended the game with a double to center that scored Gulvas with the game-ending run.