B-A softball team falls in PIAA semifinals

Trinity gets go-ahead run in top of the sixth


Jeff Miller

Coach Jim Payne meets with his infielders after Trinity took a one-run lead in the sixth inning of the PIAA semifinals Tuesday.

The Bellwood-Antis softball team set out to make history this spring.

After winning the District 6-AAA championship despite an enrollment barely above the double-A classification and following that up with the program’s first PIAA tournament victory, that much was in the bag heading into Tuesday’s state semifinal game against Trinity at Greater Latrobe High School.

The only question was how many more pages would be added to the program’s history book.

Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, the story ended against the WPIAL third-place finisher, but not before B-A put up a memorable fight.

B-A fell to Trinity 3-2, closing the books on a record-setting campaign that ended with an 18-7 record.

“It was a very emotional loss for us,” said junior third baseman Edyn Convery. “We made Bellwood history every step of the way, and I couldn’t be more proud of our team.”

Trinity (20-5) advances to Friday’s PIAA championship at Penn State against Bethlehem Catholic.

The Blue Devils took an early lead, scoring a pair of runs in the top of the first without ever registering a hit, and maintained a one-run edge all the way to the bottom of the sixth inning.

There, B-A was one strike away from wiggling out of a bases-loaded jam, but Trinity’s Shelby Clemens blasted a two-run double that lifted the Lady Hillers to a 3-2 lead.

In its final at-bat, B-A got runners on first and second with two away but couldn’t bring one around to score.

“Only one team ends with a win (in each classification), and we were hoping to be one of them,” said Blue Devil coach Jim Payne. “The girls came together, played hard, and made history. They should be very proud of their effort.”

Junior Taylor Shildt took the loss, ending a post-season that was nothing short of dominant. Shildt threw all six innings, allowing four hits and two earned runs. She had two shutouts during the playoff run.

Shildt’s counterpart, Paige Galentine, was just as sharp, allowing only three hits over seven innings.

Let’s not forget they did win a District championship, and they pushed the state finalist to the brink, all in triple-A with the smallest roster at that level.

— Coach Jim Payne

B-A took a 2-0 lead early on RBI ground outs by Jacqueline Finn and Laycee Clark, but the Lady Hillers got one back in the bottom of the first off a wild pitch that plated Olivia Gray.

The Blue Devils had other chances to extend the lead – Sarah Knisely was tagged out at the plate in the third and Convery was out at home in the sixth – but they never materialized.

“It just happened to be a one-hit winner for them,” said senior outfielder Rachael Harris. “I wasn’t too happy, obviously, that we lost, but I’m super happy we made history.”

The list of record-setting events for the 2015 softball team is impressive. Individually, Finn and classmate Anna Wolfe each recorded their 100th hits, and Finn took over the lead as the program’s all-time hits leader. Meanwhile, Coach Payne and his staff reached their 100th victory.

All of that occurred before B-A’s playoff run even began. Despite a 13-player roster, the Blue Devils opted to play up one level in the AAA classification, where they defeated Hollidaysburg and then Bellefonte to claim the District 6 title.

B-A then won the program’s first state tournament game with a 1-0 walk-off win over Yough before advancing to the PIAA final four with a 4-0 win over District 3 champion Donegal.

“Let’s not forget they did win a District championship, and they pushed the state finalist to the brink, all in triple-A with the smallest roster at that level,” said Coach Payne. “We finally embraced tradition.”

It’s a tradition B-A could certainly build upon next season. The Devils graduate three senior starters and will have their work cut out for them in replacing the bats of Wolfe and Finn, but the team is built mostly of talented underclassmen who now have a taste of success unlike any underclassmen group in program history.

“It’s not going to be easy without the seniors we lost, but we will work hard in the winter to make it back to where we want to be again,” said Edyn.