Indians upset Penn Cambria, 8-3

CRESSON – Juniata’s Hali Weiand wandered a little too far off third base in the top of the second inning and had to deal with some pain when Penn Cambria catcher Alli Reese whipped a softball off her body.

By the end of the seventh inning, however, it was the Panthers who were hurting.

After the ball ricocheted off Weiand and she scored the first run of the game, 15th-seeded Juniata controlled the game and upset the No. 2 Panthers, 8-3, in the first round of the District 6 Class AA softball playoffs Thursday.

“I said all year that there were some things in our game that we needed to work on,” Penn Cambria coach John Casale said. “Our pitching covered a lot of our problems, but when you play a sound team they can exploit that.”

The game was in stark contrast to what Juniata went through the last 24 hours.

The Indians were forced to play a doubleheader Wednesday and did not finish their games until 8:15 p.m. before having to board the bus at 12:30 p.m. Thursday to make the more than two-hour trip from Mifflintown to Cresson.

“Coming from losing as bad as we did last night, we all knew what we had to do,” Juniata freshman pitcher Brinley Irvin said. “We put it all together as a team. We had some pretty bad losses last night, but we knew we could come here and win.

“I knew we were going to do it by how we came to play today.”

The Indians took a 2-0 lead after Megan Shoop tripled and Kristen Pray drove her in with a sacrifice fly, but Penn Cambria responded in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Ashton Hite barely beat out what would have been an inning-ending double play at first base before Sarah Roberts singled. Senior Taylor Freeman followed that with a two-run triple to tie the game.

The tie was short-lived. Juniata reclaimed the lead, 4-2, with two unearned runs in the top of the fifth inning when Irvin hit a two-run single.

“We came in and were all excited,” Casale said. “They came back and got the runs they got, that was a blow. I think at that point, it was deflating. I saw the girls get down.”

Crystal Smith, who had three hits for Penn Cambria, brought the Panthers within one with an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth, but Juniata scored four runs in the top of the sixth inning to put the game away.

“We’ve hit all year,” Juniata coach Brian Sheaffer said. “We scored 34 runs in two games at one point. We’re a very young team, and when we keep our heads up, we can be good.”

The Indians’ rally was aided by Penn Cambria’s fifth error of the game. Juniata made none.

Irvin allowed just three runs and struck out two while walking just one from the pitching circle.

“Our defense, pretty much all year has been solid,” Sheaffer said. “We had some big key hits, and Brinley threw well.”

Juniata (7-7) will travel to No. 10 Ligonier Valley Monday. Ligonier Valley upset No. 7 Bald Eagle in the first round.