UNIVERSITY PARK - Kiersten Coho's hour-or-so bus ride from Claysburg-Kimmel High School to Penn State Softball Park for her PIAA Class A first round playoff game passed by in no time flat.
It wasn't because she was an excitable bundle of emotions before a big game. It was because the Lady Bulldogs' junior pitcher was sleeping.
"I'm pretty used to it from playing on travel teams," Coho said. "I really don't get nervous until I'm right there and there's a big play."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Claysburg-Kimmel’s Madison?Ickes rounds second as she heads to third on a fourth-inning triple.
Although only three Lady Bulldogs were even freshmen the last time the team won in interdistricts, Coho and her teammates were as cool as could be on Monday. The District 6 champions put together a nearly flawless performance in dispatching Burgettstown of the WPIAL 4-0 at Beard Field.
"We felt it was just like a normal game for us, a regular game," said Claysburg junior second baseman Madison Ickes, who had two hits, scored the only run the Lady Bulldogs needed in the bottom of the first inning and turned a double play in the sixth inning to help send her team into a state quarterfinal encounter on Thursday with Neshannock, the 2012 PIAA Class AA champ.
Claysburg scored twice in the first and twice in the third, which was far more than enough for the composed Coho, who shut down the Lady Blue Devils (17-6) on just three hits. It was a vastly different looking Lady Bulldog team from the one that almost stole defeat from the jaws of victory in the District 6 championship game five days ago when they committed six errors and almost squandered a 5-0 lead.
Junior shortstop Mallory Cox plated Ickes on a groundout with no one out in the first and scored herself after reaching on an error in the third.
"We were pretty confident," Cox said. "We've been here enough, and the girls on the team have enough experience. We just felt confident going in and confident coming out."
Although seniors like center fielder Kala Brumbaugh have played in the 6-A finals and gone to states every year, the Lady Bulldogs hadn't advanced beyond the first round since 2010. However, this looked like a team that was far from awed by the circumstances.
Claysburg picked up its 20th win against just three defeats.
"This team is always laid back. It's hard to get them pumped up sometimes," Claysburg coach Mike Barbarini said. "They came out with a mission to get ahead, and they did. Then they relaxed and performed much better than they did the other day."
In fact, it was a Burgettstown which started five seniors that seemed to have the jitters. The Lady Devils committed four errors resulting in three unearned runs. Leadoff hitter Shannon Briggs had two singles, and No. 2 batter Caley Ritts had the other for Burgettstown, whose only other runner came on a dropped third strike.
"We just didn't play well," Burgettstown coach Mark Deer said. "We didn't hit the ball. Too many errors again. Off and on all year that's haunted us. Some games we were able to come back, today we couldn't. We couldn't hit the ball."
The well-rested Coho was a big reason. A first baseman on last year's team making her first interdistrict playoff pitching start, she struck out seven, didn't walk a batter and retired 11 of the last 12 batters she faced.
"She's always ready. That's Kiersten," Barbarini said. "She's very level. You never have to worry about anxiety with her or her emotions getting the better of her."
"She had the confidence and the drive and the want," Cox said of Coho. "We all did."
It showed quickly. After Coho set down three of the four batters she faced in the top of the first, Ickes reached on an infield single and Brumbaugh walked to open the bottom of the inning. Ickes then stole third and Brumbaugh advanced too when the throw got away, setting up the Lady Bulldogs to score on Cox and Courtlin Holland's groundouts.
"It boosted my confidence a lot," Coho said of having the early lead. "And then the defense had more confidence after that."
Claysburg didn't give Burgettstown extra outs or chances in the field as it had in the 6-A final, with no errors and only the one passed ball. Ickes made the tag and threw to first for the double play after Briggs led off the sixth with an infield hit.
"Every practice we work on double plays, we work on run-downs, we work on the little things," Ickes said,
"It's playoff softball," Barbarini said. "We put a little pressure on them. They made a few mistakes. We capitalized on them. We were able to relax a little bit."
BURGETTSTOWN (0): Briggs rf 302, Ritts c 301, Strain ss 200, Lonick p 300, Slopel 3b 300, Ellek dp 300, M. Tarr cf (flex) 000, C. Winters 1b 200, Butts 2b 200, Torboli lf 200. Totals - 23-0-3.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (4): M. Ickes 2b 312, Brumbaugh cf 210, Cox ss 310, Holland c 200, Walter cr 000, LeMaster 1b 311, Coho p 301, Wannyn cr 000, Claycomb 3b 300, Kulick rf 300, Ritchey lf 201. Totals - 24-4-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Burgettstown000 000 0-0 3 4
Claysburg-Kimmel202 000 X-4 5 0
E-Slopel, C. Winters, Strain, M. Tarr. DP-Claysburg-Kimmel. LOB-Burgettstown 3, Claysburg-Kimmel 5. 3B-M. Ickes. RBI-Cox, Holland. SAC-Strain. SB-M. Ickes.
Burgettstown: Lonick (L)-6 IP, 4 R, 1 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 0 SO.
Claysburg-Kimmel: Coho-7 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 7 SO.
Team records: Burgettstown (17-6); Claysburg-Kimmel (20-3).
Umpires: Ray Ripka, plate; Kim Kratzer, first; Ed Russell, second; Mike Becker, third.