CRESSON — The DuBois Central Catholic softball team had to be feeling a case of déjà vu Thursday, as for the second year in a row the Lady Cardinals went to the seventh inning trailing Claysburg-Kimmel, 5-3, in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal game.
A year ago, DCC mustered just a run in the top of the seventh in a 5-4 setback to the Lady Bulldogs. Things turned out differently Thursday.
Central Catholic got a clutch two-strike, two-out, two-run single from senior Ashley Wruble in the bottom of the seventh tie the game before winning it in thrilling fashion, 6-5, on a walk-off single by freshman Avery Sickeri that plated Shyanne Lundy in the bottom of the ninth.
Wruble, Sickeri and Lundy — along with Jordy Kosko — played the starring roles on the day as DCC captured its first-ever state playoff win against Claysburg in the third meeting between the schools. The quartet accounted for seven of DCC’s nine hits and all six run scored.
Wruble finished 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs, while tossing three scoreles innings in the circle. Sickeri went 2-for-5 with two RBIs, while Kosko and Lundy combined for three hits and five runs scored from the No. 8 and 9 spots, respectively, in the order.
Kosko was 2-for-3 with a solo home run and three runs scored and also made a handful of nice defensive plays in center field. As for Lundy, she went 1-for-4 by scored the tying and game-winning runs in the seventh and ninth innings.
The victory also propelled the Lady Cardinals in the state semifinals for the third time in the last four years. And, their opponent their will be a familiar one as they play the winner of today’s quarterfinal matchup pitting Clarion against WPIAL champ West Greene. That was game was postponed Thursday due to poor field conditions at Slippery Rock.
Central Catholic just beat Clarion, 7-2, in the District 9 title game, while West Greene beat DCC in the state semifinals in both 2016 (5-2) and 2017 (9-5) when Wruble and the rest of the Lady Cardinal seniors were freshmen and sophomores.
“That was a nice win for the program to get into the Western Finals against whoever it is,” said DCC coach George Heigel. “It sure would be nice if Clarion wins (today) and have it be all D-9 Western Final. That would be neat.
“This is really the first time we’ve come back from down (late) all year. We’ve been down in the third inning before but not in the sixth or seventh inning. The girls kept believing, and I told them nobody holds us to two or three runs. But, they (Claysburg) have a much better team than they did last year though.”
Wruble started in the circle and went the first three innings, allowing just a two-out single in the first and a two-out walk in the second.
That effort allowed DCC to garb the lead in the bottom of the third.
Kosko led off the inning with an infield single, but Claysburg starter Olivia Bushore retired the next two batters. Kosko stole second with two outs before Sickeri singled to center to score her teammate.
Wruble then ripped a double to right field to plate Sickeri to make it 2-0 after after three innings.
Heigel then went to freshman Morgan Tyler in the circle in the fourth, and Claysburg got to her for a run thanks in large part to a throwing error by Tyler on a combacker that put runners on the corners with one out.
Claysburg promptly tried a double steal and DCC got an out as catcher Mia Meholick threw out Corryne Weyandt at second as Haileigh Reed stole home to make it 2-1.
The Lady Bulldogs took the lead in the fifth as they scored four runs on three hits against Tyler. Claysburg loaded the bases with one out on a pair of singles and a fielder’s choice.
Tyler then got Jazmin Kennedy to foul out to Meholick, who made a nice basket catch just outside the batter’s box up the third-base line. However, Tyler couldn’t escape the jam as Harleigh Cavender blasted a grand slam the other way over the left-field fence to put her team up 5-2.
Claysburg had a big four-run bottom of the sixth last year that proved to be the difference in that meeting.
This time around, DCC got a big run back in the bottom of the inning when Kosko launched a Bushore pitch over the fence in left to pull the Lady Cardinals within two at 5-3.
Tyler started to settle in from there and allowed just a pair of singles between the sixth and seventh innings.
With its season on the line, DCC went to work in the bottom of the seventh.
Kosko reached on an error to open the inning. Lundy followed with a grounder to short, but the throw to second to force out Kosko pulled second baseman Rebekah Claar of the bag as both runners reached safely.
Bushore then got Shayleigh Gulvas to fly out to right and Sickeri to do the same to deep center. Kosko tagged up on Sickeri’s flyout, and a heads up Lundy took second on a late throw to third.
Lundy’s awareness proved key when Wruble smacked a two-strike pitch up the middle for a single that plated both runners to make it 5-5. Bushore then intentionally walked Meholick before getting Carley Semancik to ground out to end the inning.
“You can’t say enough about Ashley (Wruble),” said Heigel. “She had the key clutch hit there in the seventh inning wit two strikes on her. The pitch was outside and she went out and got it. It didn’t make sense they pitched to her, but that’s what you get in the playoffs when the other team doesn’t know you as well. In the regular season, no one would have pitched to her.”
Both teams went scoreless in the eighth, with Tyler stranding a runner at second after Madison Knisely hammered a two-out double.
Tyler struck out the first two batters in the ninth but soon found herself in a jam as Emily Claar and Kennedy singled with two outs. A bobble by Maia Cogley in left field on Kennedy’s hit allowed the runners to advance to second and third.
Central then elected to intentionally walk Cavender to load the bases for Reed, who entered the game the team’s leader in hits (40), RBIs (55) and homers (10).
Unlike Wruble, Reed wasn’t able to deliver for her team as Tyler got her to pop up to Sickeri at third to end the threat.
“Ashley threw three nice innings for us, and Mo (Tyler) pitched well as the game went on,” said Heigel. “I thought she started working ahead in the count, and she’s pretty tough when she does that. Early on in those first few innings, she was pitching behind in the count too much and struggled a little bit.
“Overall, I still think 3-4 inning split in pitching in a good thing. because they are two different pitchers.”
Central wasted little time ending things in the bottom of the ninth.
Lundy led off with a single to left before Gulvas put down a bunt that looked like it might spin foul out in front of the plate. However, catcher Cavender fielded the ball in fair territory as Gulvas legged out a single.
Sickeri stepped in and smacked a Bushore pitch that found its way between the shortstop and third baseman for a single. Lundy hustled around third and slid into home with the winning run without a throw being made to the plate to send the DCC faithful into a frenzy.
“Shyanne got that last inning started there, then we got a decent bunt down that I think would have went foul had the catcher not fielded it,” said Heigel. “That was big to get two runners on with no outs. Then, we just believe someone is going to get the big hit for us and we got it (from Sickeri).”
Central Catholic will play the Clarion-West Greene winner on Monday at a site and time to be determined.