DuBOIS Hitting, pitching and fielding are the three key components to any softball game, and on Monday at Heindl Field in a PIAA Class 2A opening-round matchup, Cranberry put on quite a display in all three areas.
The Berries pounded out 10 runs, allowed just one and played flawless defense in a 10-1 victory over Freedom to advance to the second round.
"Fabulous," Glenn Barcinas said of finally getting his first state playoff victory as head coach of the Berries. "We've been knocking on the door. It's been like eight years since we were last here. We just always seem to have a hard time getting over this hump, but they came through today. We played as a team today."
Cranberry's only real stumble of the game came right off the bat in the top of the first when starter Andrea Watson hit the leadoff batter and followed it up with a walk, setting up an RBI single from Madison Slowinksi.
That would be the Bulldogs' (16-7) only run of the game and Watson's only blemish. She sat down the next three batters in order and wouldn't allow a runner to reach third base again until the seventh inning.
"It was just pure nerves," Barcinas said of the early bump in the road for Watson before she settled down. "But the kid is a rock. She's solid. Once she settles down, she is hard to hit. She did well and she got some great defensive plays behind her."
The Berries (14-5) didn't wait long to get that run back, either, as Watson helped her own cause by leading off with a single in the bottom of the first. After a fielder's choice, Kaylie Bruce blooped a single to left, setting up Rachael McCauley, who sent a frozen-rope double to left center, plating both runs. That hit gave the Berries a 2-1 lead and was the starting point of a huge day at the plate for Cranberry's standout slugger.
The score remained the same until the third when Watson once again played the catalyst, leading off with a walk that ultimately resulted in an RBI single off the stick of McCauley, extending the lead to 3-1.
Freedom, the three-seed out of District 7, appeared to be in business in the top of the fifth as Tara Speicher singled with the heart of the order coming up. But, Berries' catcher Jenna Reynolds quickly dispatched that idea by gunning down Speicher at second on a stolen base attempt to snuff out the potential rally.
That play served as a springboard for Cranberry, which used the momentum to put up five runs in the bottom of the frame, effectively sucking any late-game drama out of the equation.
It was none other than Watson, who yet again ignited the rally, leading off with a deep triple over the rightfielder's head that caromed off he wall.
After a lineout and a walk to Bruce, McCauley stepped to the dish and connected on an RBI groundball that resulted in an error on the shortstop, leaving baserunners at second and third. Malliah Schreck then coaxed another free pass, loading the bases and setting up a sacrifice fly by Megan Hadden.
Another walk to Maria Anderson reloaded the bases before Emily Duncan provided the inning's big blow with a two-run single to right. Jenna Seigworth capped off the rally with a run-scoring infield single to put the score at 8-1 through five.
Cranberry's final offensive outburst came in the sixth when Maddie Cornelius waited out a leadoff walk before making the trip the rest of the way around the bases on Bruce's double to right-center. McCauley then chased her home on a single to center for her fifth RBI that set the final tally at 10-1.
"She's one of our seniors that just keeps getting better every game," Barcinas said of McCauley. "The bigger the game, the more clutch she is."
McCauley finished with a game-high three hits in the contest while Watson and Bruce each added a pair of hits while Duncan drove in a pair.
In the circle, Watson struck out four while allowing just the lone run on seven hits and two walks.
With the win, the Berries will now take on Laurel, the top seed out of District 7, on Thursday at a site and time to be determined.
"Work harder," Glenn Barcinas said of what his team is going to have to do to keep winning. "Work harder and hope that a little bit of Lady Luck is on our side."