Bellefonte softball gets shutout win on the road, 7-0

By JAKE OSWALT

For The Express

JOHNSTOWN – Locked in a pitchers’ duel, an innocent groundball to second base with two outs turned Thursday’s District 6 Class AAAA softball semifinal into a breakout third inning for reigning district champion Bellefonte. The No. 4 seed Red Raiders capitalized by scoring five runs to build a comfortable lead, which proved to be more than enough for sophomore ace Lexi Rogers in the circle.

Top-seeded Greater Johnstown was unable to recapture any momentum the rest of the way, as Rogers finished off a three-hit masterpiece to lead Bellefonte to a 7-0 victory at Greater Johnstown High School.

“Hitting is contagious. Once you hit a couple balls hard, a couple other kids feel like, ‘I can do this too,’ “ Bellefonte coach Travis Foster said. “Next thing you know we’re putting some runs on the board, we’re

hitting balls hard. They made a little miscue there that kind of helped us, but we took advantage of it and we just kept rolling with it.”

Three miscues in the third put the Trojans (15-4) in a difficult spot battling back.

“We got a little sloppy in the third inning. We knew it was going to be a tight game, a pitchers’ duel,” Greater Johnstown coach Rick Bicko said. “Shae Myers and Lexi Rogers didn’t disappoint. It was a battle the whole game, but the third inning was a tough one there.”

Rogers, a right-hander, finished with 10 strikeouts while allowing only three balls to reach the outfield.

“It definitely feels good. Greater Johnstown is a great team to play against. They definitely have good hitters, good defense and great pitching,” Rogers said. “We just had to come out and play our best game.”

Rogers settled in and kept Johnstown’s offense at bay the rest of the afternoon.

“Lexi was great today,” Foster said. “She’s a heck of a competitor, which is what I like more about her. She’s a kid that just wants ball in her hands and she wants to be in the batter’s box no matter what the situation is. She was pretty sharp today.”

Catcher Hanna Lauck led Bellefonte with a 3-for-4 effort at the plate.

Johnstown finished with three singles, one each by Dakota Ahlborn, Haley Bicko and Kayle Lewis. The Trojans had one runner reach second in the fifth and another advanced to third in the sixth.

No batter reached base until the third inning, as Trojans right-hander Shaelynn Myers and Rogers each posted zeroes. The duo finished with a combined 20 punchouts.

The first two Bellefonte hitters reached base in the third. Two Myers strikeouts set the stage for a game-changing play. Lily Gardner grounded a ball towards the middle of the diamond, where Johnstown’s second

baseman ranged to her right to corral the ball, but a wide throw allowed Makenna Port to score. Bellefonte, battle-tested in the rugged Mountain League with a modest 12-8 record, kicked in the door as the next three

batters reached base. Lauck’s RBI single made it 2-0. Gardner later scored on a wild pitch, and the final two runs came in on errors to lead 5-0.

“You see their demeanor go down a little bit, that lets us kind of say, ‘Hey, we got it, let’s go.’ We kind of took charge and went with it in

that inning,” Foster said.

Despite the 5-0 lead, Rogers treated the advantage differently.

“It definitely gave us some breathing room, but we treated it just like it was 0-0 the whole game,” Rogers said. “Just hitting corners was really key.”

The five-spot took away pep out of the Trojans’ collective step.

“We get that out and we’re out of the inning and we’re back at zeroes again and we’re right in the game,” Bicko said. “It took a little bit of wind out of our sails.”

Port made a fine running catch in the third to rob Bicko of extra bases.

Rogers’ rare velocity and pinpoint control led to 17 swings and misses.

“Hats off to Bellefonte and Lexi Rogers, she’s an exceptional pitcher,” coach Bicko said. “We knew coming into the game that she topped out at 64 mph and likes to throw a lot of high pitches. We practiced all week

for that. Just today we couldn’t catch up with it. We’ve not seen that kind of speed all year.”

Bellefonte, district champions in 16 of the last 19 seasons, added two more runs in the fifth. Rogers produced an RBI single and Emalee Neff came home on a wild pitch.Neff left the game in the seventh inning with what appeared to be a head injury. The relay throw hit Neff’s head while sliding into third base as Johnstown’s third baseman went to field the throw.

Bellefonte advanced to play the winner of Friday’s Tyrone versus Cambria Heights semifinal on Thursday, May 30 at Saint Francis. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.

Bellefonte 7, Greater Johnstown 0

Bellefonte 005 020 0 – 7 7 1

Johnstown 000 000 0 – 0 3 5

Rogers and Lauck; Myers and McConnell

Records: Bellefonte 12-8; Greater Johnstown 15-4

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