DuBOIS - As it turned out, the waiting was the hardest part.
After seeing its most-recent game action nine days prior, Cranberry's girls softball team stepped onto Heindl Field on Friday and made its second District 9 Class 2A championship in as many seasons look easy with a 16-5 rout of Redbank Valley.
The third-seeded Berries (13-5) pounded out 20 hits against the No. 1 Bulldogs in a title tilt that was never really in jeopardy and saw them score in all but one inning.
"It feels fabulous," Cranberry head coach Glenn Barcinas said of his team going back-to-back and advancing to the PIAA tournament again. "It's hard. It's hard to get back here and do it again. We had a lot of adversity through the year with illness and injury, but the girls just would not quit. Somebody would step up if somebody was out. They would just not go away."
It wasn't just somebody that stepped up for the Berries against Redbank, though - it was everybody that stepped up.
Every batter for the Berries recorded at least one hit in the victory while they were paced by Jenna Seigworth's four hits out of the nine-hole.
In the top of the first inning, however, it was the top of the order that kicked off the scoring.
Maddie Cornelius coaxed a one-out walk off Bulldog starter Montana Hetrick that set up an RBI double to right-center off the bat of Kaylie Bruce. She was then chased home on an RBI single from Rachael McCauley to give Cranberry a 2-0 lead.
The Berries tacked on another in the second when Emily Duncan was brought home on an RBI single off the bat of Cornelius, who finished with three hits and three RBIs in the contest.
Cranberry plated two more in the third, courtesy of a Malliah Schreck RBI single and a run scoring on an error, before the Berries blew the game open with four runs in the fourth.
The four-run rally was ignited by Bruce's leadoff single before McCauley reached on a liner that popped out of the shortstop's glove. Both were brought home two batters later when Megan Hadden stroked a double down the left-field line. Duncan followed suit, sending a double to left-center that just missed being a home run, slamming the very top of fence and ricocheting back onto the field. In the grand scheme, though, it didn't matter much because she was brought home on an RBI base knock from Seigworth.
And just like that, the Berries held a 9-0 lead through four innings.
"It's huge," Barcinas said of taking control of the game early on. "Confidence-wise, to get that early lead, it eases the tension defensively. It's always huge when you can score runs early."
And not only was the Berries offense rolling along, so was starting pitcher Andrea Watson.
Through the first four frames, she quited the Bulldogs' offense, allowing just two hits.
That would change in the fifth, however, as the Bulldogs (11-6) finally broke through in their third time through the order.
Elania Miller led off with a single to left before Hetrick also singled to left. Brooke Holben stepped the plate and capitalized on the opportunity, smoking a double over the centerfielder's head to plate both runs.
An infield single and a free pass loaded the bases before a throwing error on a two-out grounder to third allowed two more runs to scamper home. Then, with runners at first and third, Watson fanned the next batter, but the third strike got past the catcher, allowing the batter to run to first and a fifth run to come home in the inning.
"We didn't quit," Redbank Valley head coach John Sayers said. "But, I don't know why we have to wait so long to get started. That seems like it's been our M.O. (this season), waiting until the fourth our fifth inning to start playing ... We've just got to be able to start faster. We've got a lot of things that we've got to get better at."
That would be the last of the damage done by the Bulldogs in the inning, and the game, as it turned out.
But, with the score at 9-5, it felt like a much tighter game - but not for long.
The Berries quickly responded by putting together their biggest inning of the game, scoring five runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach again.
During the outburst, Watson launched a two-run triple while Cornelius added a run-scoring three-bagger of her own. Bruce, McCauley and Seigworth also notched RBI singles.
"As a coach, I wasn't very pleased with our defensive play (in the fifth)," Barcinas said. "But, we got those runs back and got the momentum back and went from there."
Cranberry added the final nails in the coffin in the seventh, scoring two more on an RBI single from Cornelius and a run-scoring groundout from Watson, who also finished with three RBIs.
Meanwhile, Watson also bounced back from the rough fifth inning in the circle, shutting out Redbank over the final two frames.
In addition to Cornelius and Watson's efforts at the plate, Bruce added three hits and two RBIs, McCauley three hits, Hadden two hits and two RBIs and Duncan two hits and three runs.
En route to the win in the circle, Watson racked up eight strikeouts while allowing eight hits and two walks.
For Redbank, Hetrick and Shylie Shreckengost notched two hits apiece with Holben driving in the two runs.
"We had a scrimmage on this field earlier this spring," Sayers said. "And I told the girls that the next time I come up here, I want to be playing for a district title. We accomplished that goal. We set some lofty goals for this team. The talent is there and we got better as the season went on. I thought when we first came into the season, we were sort of fragile mentally. But we got tougher as the season went on, and I started to push a little harder and bark a little more and they started to accept that and go about it. I think it was a positive for us to get here in this stage and experience it."
Cranberry will face Freedom, the No. 3 seed out of District 7, in the PIAA tournament at 1 p.m. on Monday at Heindl Field in DuBois.