BROCKWAY — The DuBois Central Catholic softball team overcame Elk County Catholic, and Mother Nature to an extend, Wednesday to reach its third District 9 Class A title game in four years with a 7-4 win over the Lady Crusaders at Brockway High School.
The Lady Cardinals appeared on their way to an easy victory Wednesday, building a commanding 7-1 lead through five innings. A large portion of that damage was done in the second inning, when DCC capitalized on ECC’s lone error to score four unearned runs.
However, a 47-minute weather delay in the top of the sixth seemed to take away DCC’s momentum and breath some life back into the Lady Crusaders. Once play resumed. DCC starter Riley Assalone got two quick outs before ECC staged a rally.
Emily Evers and Maggie Dinsmore both blooped singles into the outfield to get things started, then Josie Smith reached on a bloop infield single that landed just behind the circle.
That brought Michelle Gerber to the plate, and the Lady Crusader blasted a three-run double to clear the bases and get ECC back into the game at 7-4.
That’s as close as Elk County got though. Assalone got out of the sixth with a popup to second, then struck out the first two batters in the seventh.
Jenna Weisner tried to spark an ECC rally with a single to center. She then stole second but made the mistake of trying to advance to third when the throw went into center. Lady Cardinal Macey Hanes was backing up on the play and gunned down Weisner at third to end the game.
That play, along with a strong start, propelled DCC into today’s championship game against Coudersport, where the Lady Cardinals will seek their third D-9 title in four years. Coudy bested Clarion, 4-2, in Wednesday’s other semifinal contest.
Assalone went the distance, allowing four runs, three earned, on seven hits. She struck out 13 and walked none.
The DCC-Coudy game is slated for a 4 p.m. start at St. Marys High School.
“Obviously, they had three hits that really didn’t leave the infield (in 7th). They were little bloops, and they really weren’t squaring it up on Riley,” said DCC coach George Heigel. “It did get a little scary there, though.
“But, she (Assalone) battled back and had a number of strikeouts in the game. She was really painting the inside corner on her screwball. She was working ahead in the count and is pitching like she did last year in the playoffs.
“I’m happy with the win, and the chance to play for another district championship.”
After a scoreless first inning, ECC was the team to grab the early lead with a run in the top of the second.
Smith got things started with a one-out double to right-center that DCC’s Sabrina Spencer couldn’t quite track down. Smith scored two batters later with two outs on DCC’s lone error when Spencer dropped a fly ball to right.
Assalone settled in from there and retired 10 of the next 11 batters she faced prior to the weather delay. She opened that stretch by striking out seven of eight batters, with the lone blemish being a leadoff double by Evers in the fourth.
With Assalone shutting down the Lady Crusaders, DCC answered back in the bottom of the second.
Ashley Wruble drew a leadoff walk, stole second and scored on a clutch, two-out bloop single down the right-field line by Alyssa Bittner to even the score at 1-1.
The Lady Cardinals then seized the lead with its four-run third.
Spencer jump-started the inning when she put down a bunt and ended up at second after a throwing error by third baseman Gerber. Hanes bunted Spencer to third, and she scored on a wild pitch before ECC starter Emily Evers got Jordy Frank to ground out to short for the second out.
Assalone kept the inning going with a double to right-center, while Wruble followed with her second walk of the game. Both runners scored when Shayleigh Gulvas ripped a double of her own to right-center.
Gulvas eventually scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-1 DCC before ECC got out of the inning without any further damage despite back-to-back singles by Bittner and Carley Semancik. Bittner was the lone Lady Cardinal with two hits in the game.
Libby Maurer, who had walked, tried to score on Semancik’s single but was caught in a rundown between third and home and eventually tagged out by Gerber diving back into third to end the inning.
Central added to its lead with two more runs in the fourth.
Hanes got things started with a one-out single to right. She stole second and scored on a single to center by Frank — a hit that spelled the end for Evers, as Smith came on in relief.
Frank, who took second on a throw home on her hit, swiped third and scored DCC’s final run on a groundout by Assalone. That out started a strong outing for Smith, who retired eight of the nine batters she faced.
Smith’s performance in the circle gave ECC the opportunity to fight back following the rain delay, but the Lady Crusaders had dug too deep a hole to climb out of as Assalone and her defense slammed the door on ECC’s comeback bid.
“Frankly, we didn’t hit the ball that well today,” said Heigel. “I think we had like two or three balls we squared up and hit hard. I remember Shay’s (Gulvas’) two RBI double in the third inning, and Riley had a nice hit in the gap for a double in that inning as well.
“Other than that, we didn’t hit the ball all that well, but we ran the bases aggressively like we always do. That gave us chances to score, and we scored a couple runs on passed balls. We manufactured a couple runs in those middle innings, but our two through five hitters didn’t hit like they can.
“I guess that’s encouraging (that still won). Hopefully (today) the bats come alive and Riley continues to pitch as well as she did today.”
“We battled,” said ECC coach Digger O’Dell. “That one inning we allowed four runs to score, and that was the difference in the game really. The girls didn’t quit though, and our bats started coming alive after the rain delay. We had a couple bloops and a blast, and we were right back into it.
“We need to take the end of this game into (today vs. Clarion) and hopefully make it to the state playoffs. Both our girls that pitched today did what we asked them to do.”
Elk County also is back in action today, with the Lady Crusaders playing Clarion in the D-9 consolation game at Brockway High School at 4 p.m. The winner advances to the state playoffs.