BLOOMSBURG – One win away from familiar territory, the Lady Bison refused to let their season end Thursday evening as they picked up a 4-0 win over District 3’s Hamburg to earn their second trip to the PIAA semifinals in the last three seasons.
When this current group of seniors were just high school freshmen, they went on a run to the final four where their season ended with a 1-0 loss to Bald Eagle Area. Now, this same group of seven and company will try to make good of a redemption opportunity. No, they won’t face Bald Eagle. They’ve already battled past them during the regular season. Instead, they await a matchup with WPIAL champion and reigning PIAA state champion Beaver Area and their ace Payton List, a Virginia Tech commit with a sub 1.00 ERA, on Monday at a time and place yet to be announced.
Not looking too far ahead as to what could be a pitcher’s duel for the ages come Monday, Clearfied’s ace Emma Hipps, who is pretty dang good herself, struck out 15 more batters in a one-hit shutout victory over the Lady Hawks of Hamburg. The win is number 19 for the season for her and was one that saw her take a perfect game for 6 and 2/3 innings before an error and then a base-knock ended the perfect game, then the no-hit bid.
Clearfield started the game strong as they struck for a run in the bottom of the first inning. Hipps belted a single to start the home half of the first, but after two quick outs, the inning looked like it may be over. A fielder’s choice retired Hipps but allowed Lauren Ressler to reach first with two away. Olivia Bender was up next and she kept the inning alive by reaching on an error. This allowed Ressler to move to third to put runners on the corners with two away.
Again, Alaina Fedder delivered with a clutch hit, this one an RBI single to left to put the Lady Bison up 1-0 after an inning of play. Hipps from there continued to cruise in the circle, in an overall outing and game that Head Coach Derek Danver called “one of the greatest playoff performances of all-time.”
“She did it in the circle; she was dominant the whole way through the game against a really good hitting team. At the plate, she got the job done as well,” he noted.
After three and a half innings of scoreless play and a continued pitchers duel between Hipps and Hailey Strunk, the Lady Bison would strike for the final three runs of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning to go up 4-0.
Alexis Benton connected for a single, one of her two hits for the game, and teammate Alexis Cole made it back-to-back singles to start the home half of the fifth. Some shining moments for the bottom of the Lady Bison lineup, something Danver was excited to see from his players.
“In the inning that Hipps hit the home run, that started with our eight and nine hitters (Benton and Cole) both singling and putting runners on base for us. That was a big boost for us.”
Following the two base-hits, Hipps belted what should have been a three-run homer to center, but after a conversation from the umpires, they ruled it a two-run homer and that Alexis Cole was out during the play for missing home plate.
A strange play indeed, but the official scorer gave it a two-run homer and runs to Benton and Hipps on the play. After the chaos, the Lady Bison led 3-0. They would add their fourth run later in the frame as Lauren Ressler doubled and later scored on a two-out error by the Hamburg defense.
Leading 4-0, Hipps had plenty of run support. The Clarion commit could do no wrong and this group finds themselves one game away from playing for a PIAA state championship.
“This next game is going to come down to who can scrap some runs together. We are going to be hitting some speed and she (List) probably throws harder than any of the other pitchers we have seen this year. We will try to ramp it up a little bit over these next few days and get our eyes adjusted to seeing something coming in a little harder.”
Heading into Monday’s showdown that has no time or site determined yet, Danver shared a few thoughts on how he hopes making it back to the final four will shake out for his seniors this time around.
“We made it there what seems like a while ago now because of missing a season and then not making it as far last year, but I don’t think there will be quite as many nerves this year. They’ve been there before and we were in a really close game there last time. They remember how bad it hurt coming up on the short end of it, so I think it is something in their minds of not letting that happen again.”
HAMBURG – 0
Kylah Reading (RF) 3000, Amelia Gassert (CF) 3000, Hailey Strunk (P) 3000, Katie Behler (2B) 3010, Anabel Kennedy (3B) 3000, Skylar Shuman (1B) 2000, Jenna Shuman (SS) 2000, Shayna Morales (C) 2000, Emily Zimmerman (LF) 2000. TOTALS 23 0 1 0.
TB: Katie Behler
ROE: Hailey Strunk
E: Anabel Kennedy, Emily Zimmerman
CLEARFIELD – 4
Emma Hipps (P) 3122, Ruby Singleton (CF) 3000, Lauren Ressler (1B) 3210, Olivia Bender (C) 3010, Alaina Fedder (SS) 2011, Alexis Bumbarger (3B) 3000, Kylee Hertlein (2B) 3000, Alexis Benton (RF) 3120, Alexis Cole (DP) 3010, Paige Houser (PR) 0000, Anna Twigg (LF) 0000. TOTALS 26 4 8 3.
2B: Olivia Bender, Lauren Ressler
HR: Emma Hipps
TB: Olivia Bender 2, Alexis Benton 2, Alexis Cole, Alaina Fedder, Emma Hipps 5, Lauren Ressler 2
RBI: Alaina Fedder, Emma Hipps 2
SAC: Alaina Fedder
ROE: Olivia Bender 2
FC: Lauren Ressler
E: Alexis Benton
Score by Inning
Hamburg 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.
Clearfield 1 0 0 0 3 0 x.
Emma Hipps 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 15 K.
Hailey Strunk 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, K.
W – Emma Hipps (19-2). L – Hailey Strunk.