Clark’s clutch hit lifts softball team in PIAA’s

Squad records the program’s first win in the state tournament


Jeff Miller

Jacqueline Finn touches home plate off a Laycee Clark single in the bottom of the seventh yesterday at Beard Field.

The days of 10-run rule victories are a thing of the past for the Bellwood-Antis softball team, but that’s a blessing, not a curse.

Ten-run games are hard to come by when you’re playing for a state championship, and that’s where the Blue Devils are.

They moved one step closer to the dream of a PIAA championship yesterday when they outlasted a tough Yough squad from the WPIAL, pulling out a heart-stopping 1-0 victory in their last at-bat at Beard Field at University Park in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament.

Junior Laycee Clark delivered the big hit, dealing a two-out single with a full count off Yough starter Macy Mularski.

“I was terrified but Coach told me there was no one better so that gave me confidence,” Laycee said.  “There’s no better feeling in the world.”

That hit plated senior Jacqueline Finn, who was on third base after reaching on a single and then advanced on a hit by junior Edyn Convery.

“This win was as good a win as I have ever been a part of,” said B-A coach Jim Payne. “These girls refuse to lose. Laycee made the most of her opportunity. She’s dedicated her life to playing softball, and today it paid off for her.”

It was the first PIAA inter-district win in program history for the Blue Devils, who are playing in Class AAA despite having an enrollment barely large enough to make Class AA.

The win was made possible in large part by B-A’s stellar defense and a lock-down pitching job by junior Taylor Shildt.

Shildt spread six hits over seven innings and fanned 10 in a dominating performance.

“I think I am at my best right now, but I also think the team is at its best,” said Shildt. “We are peaking at the right time and it’s working out for us.”

B-A’s seniors said defense and error-free ball will be the key from here on out for the Blue Devils, who improved to 17-6.

“One play can change the entire game,” said senior Anna Wolfe. “We learned that the hard way earlier this season. All of our losses were decided by one play.”

“Every inning matters,” said senior center fielder Rachael Harris. “Every play maters, so we have to keep our focus.”

B-A moves on to face the winner of Wednesday’s game between Donegal and Frankford. The road may only get harder from here on out, but Coach Payne, who said his team can “absolutely” compete at this level, has his team believing.

“Our motto right now is why not us?” Laycee said.  “We moved up and we’re competing with the best teams.”