EVERETT - When Kiersten Coho launched her double over the head of Neshannock center fielder Rayanna Furst to score pinch runner Rachel Walter in the bottom of the fourth inning, it looked like the beginning of a Claysburg-Kimmel comeback.
Instead, it was the beginning of the end for the Lady Bulldogs' season.
Neshannock, the WPIAL champion and 2012 state Class AA champion, responded with four runs in the top of the fifth and went on to a 6-1 victory over Claysburg in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals on a sunny, warm and somewhat muggy Saturday afternoon at Everett Elementary School.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Claysburg’s Hannah Claycomb tries to beat out a grounder hit to Neshannock’s Madison Shaffer.
"It was definitely deflating," C-K senior catcher Courtlin Holland, who went 1-for-3, said of Neshannock's big inning. "We tried to pick it up and bring it back, but we just couldn't.
"It's a sad moment, considering it's senior year and my last game ever, but I couldn't hand it to my team more. We played hard, but there were some errors. All we had to do was execute."
The Lady Bulldogs (20-4) were within a run at 2-1 going to the fifth inning and Claysburg third baseman Hannah Claycomb retired speedy leadoff hitter Furst on a nice play for the first out.
Then the doors came off.
The next six batters came through with four of the Lady Lancers' six hits which, combined with an error, a walk and a fielder's choice, ended up amounting to four runs.
"Our momentum started to shift. You could feel it. We were all starting to get pumped up," Claysburg senior centerfielder Kala Brumbaugh said. "Then they scored [four] runs, and you could see it on everyone's faces. Everyone got down on themselves and thought it was over."
Winning pitcher Madison Shaffer, who didn't get the ball out of the infield on her other three at-bats, came up with the big blow, lashing a two-RBI single to center one batter after Alexandra Fischer blooped an run-scoring single just over Lady Bulldog shortstop Mallory Cox.
"They were creeping up on us. They wouldn't stop fighting," said Shaffer, a first-year starter in the circle who struck out nine. "We needed some more runs."
Sporting almost the same lineup that won the state title in a larger classification last year, Neshannock raised its record to 20-2 and will meet Southern Huntingdon, a 6-2 winner over WPIAL runner-up Carmichaels, in the PIAA semifinals on Monday in Brockway.
"That's how we expect to play," Neshannock coach Tracy Kimmel said. "When you have eight out of nine kids back that went through [a championship run], that's a big item. Our kids just seem to handle everything well. They don't get too excited. I know there was talk about how we drove 170 miles and they drove 30 miles. That doesn't bother us."
Neshannock's first run in the fifth scored on a bases-loaded grounder to Cox, whose throw home beat the runner but tipped off Holland's glove.
Claysburg dug itself a hole early, usually because of miscommunication in the field. In the first, Holland threw a ball into center field when she heard someone from the bench tell her incorrectly that Marissa DeMatteo was stealing - DeMatteo advanced and scored with two outs. In the second, Brumbaugh uncharacteristically dropped a fly when she and leftfielder Brooke Ritchey couldn't decide who should take it, and Fischer made it 2-0 when Hannah Claycomb, who made a couple of slick defensive plays later, was forced to eat a routine bouncer because no one covered first.
"We had a few errors early in the game that were amateur mistakes. We don't, usually," Brumbaugh said. "We'd heard that they were the defending double-A state champs, and I think that really kind of psyched us out a little bit. When we started to play our game, it was too late."
Claysburg had its chances but left eight runners on base, including five in scoring position and at least one every inning. Combining five hits and four walks, the Lady Bulldogs got the leadoff hitter batter on base in four of the first five innings but never scored her.
"Today wasn't our game. We weren't executing very well, and [Shaffer] was a dominating pitcher," Ritchey said.
Coho might have had a chance to score the tying run in the fourth when a Shaffer offering got by the catcher and went to the backstop, but Coho held up and ended up stranded on third.
"I was thinking about going, but I didn't get a good enough jump," Coho said.
Coho had two hits for the Lady Bulldogs but struggled in the circle: After not walking a batter in the last three games, the C-K junior issued three free passes to Neshannock.
"I was feeling fine. The ump's strike zone was a little bit smaller than the last two that we had. It took me a while to get used to his strike zone," Coho said.
Coho is one of six Lady Bulldogs who'll return for 2014.
"We're set up very good for next year," Claysburg coach Mike Barbarini said. "We lose three [Brumbaugh, Holland and Ritchey], but we have three waiting in the wings and, with this experience, I think it will really help us."
The Lady Bulldogs did achieve their primary goal of winning the 6-A crown after being thwarted in the finals last year and made it past the first round of interdistricts for the first time in three years.
"I thought we had the potential to do it," Holland said. "We mesh well together. We act like a team."
"I'm so proud of my team," Brumbaugh said.
NESHANNOCK (6): Furst cf 400, Graziani ss 411, DeMatteo 2b 321, Altmyer 3b 211, K. Burrelli lf 410, Fischer 1b 412, Shaffer p 401, Iorio lf 300, Kirkwood c 300. Totals - 31-6-6.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (1): M. Ickes 2b 401, Brumbaugh cf 300, Cox ss 400, Holland 301, LeMaster 1b 300, Walter pr 010, Coho p 302, Wannyn cr 000, Claycomb 3b 201, Kulick rf 300, Ritchey lf 200. Totals - 27-1-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Neshannock110 040 0-6 6 2
Claysburg-Kimmel000 100 0-1 5 4
E-Holland 2, Brumbaugh, Graziani, Altmyer, Cox. LOB-Neshannock 7, Claysburg-Kimmel 8. 2B-Fischer, Coho. RBI-Altmyer, Coho, Fischer, Shaffer 2. SB-Brumbaugh, Furst, Ritchey.
Neshannock: Shaffer (W)-7 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 H, 4 BB, 9 SO.
Claysburg-Kimmel: Coho (L)-7 IP, 6 R, 3 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 3 SO.
Team records: Neshannock (20-2); Claysburg-Kimmel (20-4).
Umpires: Thad Kiesnowski, plate; Gary Singel, first; Dave Lowry, second; John Nakich, third.