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Central Mountain beats Bellefonte to win District 6 Class 5A softball championship

LORETTO – Central Mountain coach Fred Caldwell cradled the district softball trophy in his left arm as an equipment bag swung around his right after Wednesday’s District 6 Class 5A title game at Saint Francis.

It was quite the turnaround from a season ago as the Wildcats managed to avenge last year’s district championship loss to Bellefonte and down the Raiders, 5-2, to advance to the PIAA Class 5A tournament and capture the district crown.

The 2021 title game between the two central PA powerhouses featured premiere pitching, elite hitting and a rain delay.

“It meant a lot to them. Anytime you lose like that — a game split over two days because of weather — it left a bitter taste in their mouth,” Caldwell said regarding his team’s ability to win the 2022 title. “This was really important for them.”

Central Mountain was able to get win No. 19 — and complete the season-sweep of Bellefonte — behind the performances of two sensational sophomores. It was second-year varsity players Adalynn McKeague and Harley Kunes who stole the show and made countless plays to help the Wildcats reach the PIAA playoffs.

McKeague was stellar in the circle as the hard-throwing righty went the distance, struck out seven and walked just three in the victory. McKeague collected her 11th win on the season and is now 11-2.

Caldwell admitted after Central Mountain’s win that it was the first time in a while that McKeague was able to fully throw. Despite the injury, McKeague shined.

“Addy’s been struggling with some injuries. She’s mostly over them but this is the first time we’ve really had her throw full and she did a great job. I kept asking her every inning if she was okay and she gutted it out and did a great job,” Caldwell said.

As McKeague kept the Raiders’ bats in check, Kunes made it happen at the plate for the Wildcats. Kunes, who went 3 for 3 behind a trio of RBIs, tripled in the bottom of the first and brought in two runs to give the Wildcats an early advantage. Kunes’ ability to bring runs in is the reason she’s been hitting out of the three-spot in the Central Mountain lineup.

“Harley’s done that all year, and that’s why she’s the three-hitter.” Caldwell said. “She’s come through every other game. We have a lot of young players which is good, it’s good for the future and things look good.”

After Central Mountain posted a combined five runs during its first two at-bats, Bellefonte was never able to recover. The Raiders managed to rally for three runs in the final two innings but that was all. Following Madison Melius’ leadoff single to begin the game, the Raiders struggled to produce hits. It was not until the fourth inning when Bellefonte got its second hit of the game.

Despite the lack in the box, the Raiders didn’t quit. The likes of Melius, Reichert and Barnhart refused surrender as the game trickled away.

“We fight. We just fight. Backs to the wall, late game — against a very good team — we just keep scrapping. We don’t quit. It’s fun to see us just improve, improve, improve as the year goes on and next think you know we’re back in the district championship game. That’s all you can ask for,” Bellefonte coach Travis Foster said following his team’s season-ending loss.

The Raiders ended their season with a final record of 12-6. After a 2-3 start to its season, all Bellefonte did was compete.

“It shows the character of these girls, they’re not okay with just being here. They want to win. That’s what I love about them. They work hard. That’s all you can ask for,” Foster said.

As for Central Mountain, the Wildcats will meet DuBois in the next round. The Beavers carry a record of 13-4.

The recipe is simple for Central Mountain in the days leading up its next playoff game according to Caldwell: the Wildcats are going to continue to perfect what they do best.

“I think it’s important that we work on what we do best. Pitching and defense,” Caldwell said.

Bellefonte 000 001 2 – 3 6 0

Central Mountain 230 000 x – 5 6 2

W: Adalynn McKeague. L: Alaina Smith.

Top Bellefonte hitters: Madison Melius 2-3, 2B; Tori Reichert 2-4; Sienna Barnhart 2-4. Top Central Mountain hitters: Harley Kunes 3-3, 3 RBIs.

Records: Bellefonte (12-6), Central Mountain (19-2)

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