West Xtra: Bridgers bounce back in state playoffs

HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL/PIAA PLAYOFFS


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The Ambridge Area softball team plays like it trains on a trampoline -- the Bridgers know how to bounce back.

The Bridgers lost the WPIAL Class AAA championship game last Thursday, 8-0, to Greensburg Salem. But by Monday, Ambridge was back to winning. The Bridgers defeated Hollidaysburg, 5-2, in the first round of the PIAA tournament at Penn State.

The Bridgers will play District 3 champion Greencastle-Antrim at noon today at Bedford High School. Ambridge coach Jim Huwar knows that his team will be mentally ready to play.

"We hit the ball hard [against Hollidaysburg]," Huwar said. "[Kelly] Haslett pitched a good game."

Haslett pitched five innings in Monday's victory against Hollidaysburg.

The Bridgers had relied on a pitching tandem this year of Haslett, a sophomore, as well as senior Hannah Smith. Smith is in the process of rehabilitating a sore shoulder, but this hasn't affected team play. Haslett pitched five innings on Monday, and Smith added a scoreless final two.

Huwar noted that although Smith's shoulder feels better on some days than it does on others, it is definitely healing.

Haslett supports the team's defense in more places than the pitching circle. She moved to first base after Smith came in.

In the sixth inning, Hollidaysburg's Pam Civils hit a line drive to first with runners at first and second. Haslett stopped the drive in midair and leaped to first base for the unassisted double play. It retired the side for Hollidaysburg.

Ambridge's offense through the postseason has come from a mix of contributors, an advantage for any softball team. Huwar noted that the Bridgers totaled 10 hits on Monday. These included two hits with three RBIs by first baseman Lexi Hilzendeger and an RBI double by shortstop Hannah Krokonko.

Catcher Jaymee Humbert led off the fifth inning on Monday with a double that allowed pinch runner Jill Loftus to score on a Hilzendeger hit. Huwar noted that Humbert had also singled against Hollidaysburg.

"We had four girls who had two hits apiece," Huwar said. "In the third inning, everything came together. It was good how the girls responded after coming off the loss in the WPIAL championship."

Bouncing back with the crack of the bat was exactly what the Bridgers wanted after traveling three hours and 45 minutes from Ambridge to State College.

"We left at six and stopped for breakfast in Altoona," Huwar said. "We got [to Penn State] about two hours ahead [of game time] and just started all the drills."

He noted that a lot of the girls got some extra sleep in the early hours of the day and were ready to cut up with their teammates soon thereafter.

"It was a nice day to play softball up there at State College," Huwar said.

The temperature had been in the 60s -- unseasonably cool for June but perfect for Ambridge softball.

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