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Blue Ridge struggled right through to the final two innings in the first round of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class A softball tournament.
The Lady Raiders were sure to get control much earlier in the quarterfinals and coasted into the state semifinals for the second time in the last three years.
Blue Ridge rolled over District 3 champion Upper Dauphin, 9-0, Thursday after getting past District 1 champion Bristol, 3-0, in the first round.
In Thursday's quarterfinal at Allentown, Blue Ridge scored once in the first inning and twice in the second to take command. The Lady Raiders then added four runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth.
"We couldn't afford another game like Bristol," said Blue Ridge coach Bob Pavelski, who devoted all of Wednesday's lengthy practice to various batting drills. "We were not hitting. We couldn't get the ball out of the infield."
Blue Ridge was locked in a scoreless tie against Bristol before a pair of hits that were looped over the infield with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.
Brittany Pavelski reached base to start the sixth. Heather Franks singled and Jocelyn Dearborn walked to load the bases with one out.
Devin Glezen's bloop single broke the tie and Kelly Drake followed with a two-run single for insurance.
It looked like Blue Ridge might need all three of those runs when Bristol started the seventh by loading the bases with none out.
"It looked like all heck would break loose," coach Pavelski said. "It's one of the first time-outs I called all year.
"I usually let them work it out. But I could see in Brit's face that she was scared." Brittany Pavelski, the coach's daughter, gathered herself and struck out three straight batters to get out of trouble. She finished with a four-hit shutout and 12 strikeouts.
Blue Ridge has not allowed a run in the first six innings in any of the five playoff games. The Lady Raiders have outscored their playoff opponents, 30-2.
The most comfortable of those victories came in the state quarterfinals against Upper Dauphin.
Pavelski had a lead before she ever took the mound. She started the game with a single up the middle and scored on Dearborn's two-out, line drive single.
Drake and Brittany Welch singled to start the second and Kate Donovan brought them in with a triple for a 3-0 lead.
The Lady Raiders made the most of two errors in the fourth inning with the help of a two-run double by Emily Sienko.
Glezen started the fifth with a single and scored along with Brooke Hinkley on a triple by Welch.
Welch, who had missed more than half the season with a heel injury, returned to the lineup just as a hitter. She joined Pavelski and Glezen with two hits each.
"She's just hitting," coach Pavelski said. "I don't think she could take a lot on her ankle if she stepped in a hole in the outfield."
WEEK IN REVIEW
Teresa Covert brought her University at Albany track and field career to an impressive conclusion.
Covert, a senior from Susquehanna, broke her own school record and moved into the top 20 in the country in her second trip to the NCAA Division I national championships as a 100-meter hurdler.
Covert finished fourth out of seven in her heat in a time of 13.30 seconds, just .34 behind the best in the nation. She finished 16th out of 28 hurdlers and failed to qualify for one of the nine spots in the finals.
The 100 hurdles is one of three school records that Covert improved on in her senior season. She lowered her 100-meter dash record to 11.55 seconds and stretched her long jump record to 19-5 1/2.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Blue Ridge is trying to advance to the state softball finals for the second time in three seasons.
If the Lady Raiders got past District 4 champion South Williamsport in a semifinal that was scheduled for Monday, they would play for the state title Friday at 11 a.m. at Shippensburg University's Robb Field.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
JIMMIE JOHNSON Wins Weird-Ending Pocono 500
Jimmie Johnson battled back from another NASCAR snafu that left him pitting a lap after the rest of the field to win Sunday's Pocono 500 under caution.
The win was Johnsons third of the season and ninth of his career. Johnsons No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet Monte Carlo was the dominant car. But after NASCAR officials opened the pit road one lap too early after a caution came out on lap 154, then closed it, there were a lot of anxious feelings for Johnsons team.
Johnson almost lost the advantage of his strong car, but by lap 174, he had regained the lead.
NASCAR would only say to John Hendrick, the team owner of car 48, that they would talk about it in post-race discussions.
In addition, fans threw debris on the track after NASCAR decided to end the race under yellow after the 10th caution came out near the end of lap 195.
For Johnson, the win was especially sweet. He led 500 of the 600 mile Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte only to lose. Last week at Dover, he got caught up in a huge wreck after he was poised to win.
"This was not an easy win because of the miscue on pit road," said Johnson. "We were just doing what NASCAR told us the rules would be during the drivers meeting. There was a mistake by the flagman, and luckily, it cycled itself out for us.
"For a while there, I was pretty nervous."
For the second-place finisher, Jeremy Mayfield, it was his third consecutive top-10 finish.
"Jimmie was strong all day," said Mayfield. "We had a good race car, that came on strong at the end of the race, but whether we could have got by him if it had stayed green, I dont know."
Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth had several bump-and-goes. Kenseth bumped Harvick under the green flag. When a caution came out on lap 195, Harvick spun Kenseth. One lap later, Kenseth caught up with Harvick and turned his No. 29 around.
Both were summoned to the NASCAR trailer after the race ended.
During lap 158 Rusty Wallace got into the back of Michael Waltrip, causing both of them to spin out and hit the outside wall.
Waltrip said afterwards, he "couldnt imagine any rational driver doing such a thing." Wallace replied, "I had no brakes. It was that simple, I lost my brakes."
Top ten finishing order: 1. Jimmie Johnson, 2. Jeremy Mayfield, 3. Bobby Labonte, 4. Jeff Gordon, 5. Kurt Busch, 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 7. Terry Labonte, 8. Robby Gordon, 9. Jamie McMurray, 10. Kevin Harvick.
Current NEXTEL CUP Contenders 1. Earnhardt, Jr.-2113, 2. Johnson-2055, 3. Kenseth-1889, 4. J. Gordon-1874, 5. Stewart-1854, 6. B. Labonte-1812, 7. Busch-1803, 8. Sadler-1770, 9. Harvick-1766, 10. Newman-1674.
Its Not Worth It Says KASEY KAHNE At the beginning of the season, there were four drivers, Kasey Kahne, Johnny Sauter, Greg Biffle, and Michael Waltrip that had committed to running a full schedule in both the Nextel Cup and Busch Series.
Now there are only three, and the list might be down to only two before many more races.
Michael Waltrip dropped out of his full-time Busch schedule two weeks ago. Kasey Kahne announced last week he would no longer run for the Busch title this season.
Currently, Kahne is 14th and 554 points out of first. Down that much, Kahne sees little use for his team to crisscross the country, trying to make all the dates for both Busch and Cup races.
The Cup teams are at Sonoma, California the weekend of June 26-27, while the Busch series is at Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
"Its just a matter that you cant do it," said Kahne. "Its not going to happen when you are where we are in Busch points. We have no opportunity to win the championship, and theres no reason to miss Cup practice."
While Sauter has strong commitments, he is 13th in points. Biffle is eighth.
RICHARD CHILDRESS To Celebrate 35 Years Richard Childress Racing will celebrate its 35th anniversary in October, but the black No. 3 paint scheme wont be part of the program.
For years the No. 3 was synonymous with Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
"We talked about it, but we didnt want to bring it out," said Childress. "We have enough history and tributes throughout the years of RCR without bringing it out.
"A lots happened at RCR in 35 years. Weve had some great times, great victories, and won championships in all three series.
"And weve had a lot of sad times. We lost my best friend and the greatest race driver in the history of our sport."
In conjunction with the program which will be held in October, the team is holding a contest. The winner will get to ride around Lowes Motor Speedway in a car Childress drove in the 1970s.
TRUEX, JR. Retakes Busch Lead Top-10 Busch Series leaders after 15 of 34 races: 1. Truex Jr.-2279, 2. Busch-2234, 3. D. Green-2026, 4. Hamilton Jr.-1983, 5. Waltrip-1971, 6. Biffle-1924, 7. Leffler-1900, 8. Keller-1900, 9. Hornaday-1878, 10. K. Wallace-1748.
SETZER Leads Truck Drivers Top-10 Craftsman Truck leaders after 7 of 25 races: 1. Setzer-1109, 2. Edwards-1059, 3. Crawford-986, 4. Skinner-982, 5. Hamilton-946, 6. Sprague-927, 7. Reutimann-908, 8. Wood-900, 9. Crafton-897, 10. Chaffin-879.
Three series, three different tracks: The Cup teams are at Brooklyn, Michigan. The Busch Series is at Sparta, Kentucky, and the Craftsman Trucks race at Memphis, Tennessee.
Saturday, June 19, Craftsman Truck OReilly 200, race 8 of 25, 200 laps/150 miles, 3 p.m., TV: Speed Channel.
Busch Series Meijer 300, race 16 of 34, 200 laps/300 miles, 7:30 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Sunday, June 20, Nextel Cup DHL 400, race 15 of 36, 200 laps/400 miles, 1 p.m. TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: Where will the last Nextel Cup race of the 2004 season be held?
Last Weeks Question: Who is Ryan Newmans Penske Racing teammate? Answer. Rusty Wallace.
If you would like to read additional racing stories by Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter, go to www.race500.com.
Matthew Ruby, Great Bend has enrolled at the NASCAR Technical Institute (NTI) in Mooresville, NC. Ruby will train to become a professional automotive technician.
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