DuBOIS — A hot start proved to be all the DuBois Central Catholic softball team needed Wednesday night against Clarion, as the Lady Cardinals captured their third District 9 Class A title in four years with a 7-2 victory under the lights at Heindl Field.
Central Catholic scored all seven of its runs during a five-hit top of the first inning, as the Lady Cardinals came out firing on all cylinders against Clarion starter Kaitlyn Constantino.
The fifth-seeded Lady Cardinals (14-9) had three extra-base hits in the first-inning explosion. Mia Meholick’s three-run home run to left field opened the scoring and proved to be the eventual game-winning hit.
However, DCC pushed four more runs across after two outs following Meholick’s blast to put second-seeded Clarion (16-5) behind the proverbial 8-Ball from the get-go.
Those seven runs proved to be more than enough support for DCC freshman Morgan Tyler, who went the distance in the circle. She allowed two runs, both in the sixth, on seven hits while striking out 13 and walking just one.
Constantino matched zeroes with Tyler after the first and allowed just three hits over the final six innings while her defense made some above average plays behind her to help keep the Lady Cats in the game.
But, DCC’s hot start proved too much for Clarion to overcome. Constantino allowed the seven runs, all earned, on eight hits. She struck out nine and walked four.
Central Catholic advanced to the state playoffs with the victory, where the Lady Cardinals will play the third place team from the WPIAL on Monday.
Meanwhile, Clarion must get over the loss quickly, as the Lady Cats are scheduled to play top-seeded Otto-Eldred in Class A “True-Second” place game today at 2 p.m. at Heindl Field for the district’s second berth into states.
“Winning another title is nice for the seniors,” said DCC coach George Heigel. “They have won three district titles in four years now. But I gotta be honest, this isn’t our goal. That’s not to sound cocky or discredit a district title because it does mean a lot. Coming into the season this was one of the goals, but we’re looking forward (to states).
“We talked about getting off to a fast start, especially with Mo (Tyler) our freshman pitcher starting and giving her a little leeway. And, we were able to do that. The big hit was obviously Mia’s home run. That sort of put everyone at ease.
“And Mo pitched very well for us, as she has all year. This was the first time we’ve started her in a while. We’ve been splitting up games (with pitchers), but I thought it was time we threw her (from start) and see what she did.
“Clarion is a tough team, and we knew they would be. Dan (Shofestall) and his staff do a great job with their team. They made some very good defensive plays, and their pitcher throws heat. She’s sort of hard because she’s either throwing strikes or she has some wildness, which creates problems when you’re batting.”
Central Catholic’s top of the first started innocently enough as Shayleigh Gulvas drew a leadoff walk and Avery Sickeri popped up to the pitcher. Ashley Wruble then walked before Meholick launched a Constantino pitch into the bleachers in left field to put DCC up 3-0.
Constantino responded by striking out Carley Semancik, but Alyssa Bittner kept the inning going with a double to to left-center field. Maia Cogley followed with a walk, then both runners advance a base on a wild pitch before scoring a double by Jordy Kosko.
A single by Chelsea Busatto chased home Kosko, while Gulvas punctuated the inning with a double to left to plate Busatto to make it 7-0.
Central didn’t do much offensively from there though, getting singles from Cogley, Shyanne Lundy and Sickeri in the third, sixth and seventh innings, respectively.
Cogley was promptly erased on a strike-em out, throw-em out double play to end the third, while Constantino stranded both Lundy and Sickeri at second in the sixth and seventh.
Lady Cat shortstop Brenna Campbell also made a couple nice plays on ground balls, including one diving effort on one hit by Wruble, to help hold down the DCC offense.
Conversely, Clarion didn’t get a runner to second base in the first three innings against Tyler despite having someone on in all three frames. Wruble made a nice diving stop on a ball hit up the middle to get a force out in the third after Constantino had singled. Tyler posted six strikeouts through three innings.
Clarion looked to have life in the bottom of the fourth when Jordan Best ripped a leadoff triple to right field. However, she never left third base as Tyler recorded a pair of strikeouts around a nice play by catcher Meholick, where she fielded a chopper off the plate and quickly tagged out the batter Lindsey Kemmer.
The Lady Cats finally cracked Tyler in the sixth.
Campbell and Best hit back-to-back singles to open the inning. Tori Vega made it three hits in a row with a single to center to plate Campbell. Clarion then attempted a double steal. Meholick threw out Vega at second, while Best was able to take home on the play to make it 7-2.
That proved to be it for the Lady Cats, as Tyler struck out the final five batters she faced to finish off the victory and give DCC the district crown.
“The first inning hurt, and they came out and swung the bats well,” said Shofestall. “Sometimes it takes a little while to settle in, and that’s a good team (DCC). We battled after that, but the first inning was the key.
“The fight we had tonight was very admirable against a very good team. We knew it wouldn’t be easy no matter what coming in here. But, we have good pitching, and we played good defense behind her (Constantino). Brenna played great at shortstop and helped keep us in the game.
“The key for us was we didn’t get the big blast (extra-base hits), other than Jordy’s, and they did.”