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Shippensburg – Brittany Welch's pitching motion broke down ever so slightly, ever so briefly, in the fourth and fifth innings of Friday morning's Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class A state softball championship game.
The Iroquois Braves may not have realized it at the time, but they were seeing their only chance to get to the Blue Ridge senior pitcher.
Welch was awesome early, then toughened up again after a late adjustment while finishing her career with a no-hitter to lift the Lady Raiders to their second state title in three years with a 1-0 victory.
"This is a real good feeling, especially for my senior year," Welch said. "It's a great way to close it out."
Welch closed out the Braves, by retiring the last nine batters, four on strikeouts. She ended the game by getting Natalie Orloff on three straight pitches.
She was even stronger at the start of the effort, which resulted in 11 strikeouts and two walks.
Welch retired the first eight batters, six on strikeouts, four of them looking as she had the Iroquois hitters utterly confused on the first trip through the batting order.
"I didn't even realize it was a no-hitter," Welch said. "I've been working on my pitches trying to prepare myself for this game.
"I guess it worked."
Welch was also a big part of the offense.
Leadoff hitter Erin Keene and Welch accounted for four of Blue Ridge's five hits by each going 2-for-2 with a walk.
Although she did not get a run batted in on the play, it was a first-inning hit by Welch which produced the game's only run.
Keene opened the game with a walk.
Kate Donovan reached when she grounded into a force-out which erased Keene with the second out of the inning.
Donovan's speed and coach Bob Pavelski's aggressive decision-making from the third-base coaching box made the most of the only time Blue Ridge got a runner as far as third base in the first five innings.
Welch lined a hard single into left field where Ashlie Totten had trouble coming up with the ball. When Totten kicked the ball into foul territory with Donovan on her way from second to third base, Pavelski started waving his arms frantically for her to keep on running.
Donovan never hesitated and made it home with what proved to be the game's only run.
"Once you turn the corner from third, you can't see what's going on," Donovan said. "It's scary not knowing what's going on behind me."
In a match-up between two unbeaten teams that had combined to give up just four runs in six state tournament games, getting the first run was clearly significant.
"I just thought, 'Thank God we got a run now,'" Donovan said. "I was hoping we could get a few more, but it turns out that we didn't."
Welch and a typically solid defensive effort by Blue Ridge made sure that it did not matter.
Only three Iroquois runners reached base and only three balls left the infield, all of which were handled by right fielder Alison Mayes.
Iroquois got its first base runner with two out in the third on Blue Ridge's only error. The booted groundball was a clear scoring call, avoiding any controversy in what held up as a no-hitter.
Welch made it to one out in the fourth by throwing 32 of her first 41 pitches for strikes.
The Braves did some work when Welch struggled a little with her control. Heather Burnside fouled off four pitches with two strikes, including three with a full count, to eventually get a one-out walk in the fourth. Orloff fouled off two pitches with a full count to work out her walk to start the fifth inning.
During a stretch of five batters, Welch threw 18 strikes and 11 balls, the type of control most pitchers would love to have, but not near what she has displayed throughout the postseason.
Facing a 3-1 count to Kayla Troup, Welch came in with a strike that resulted in a sacrifice bunt to start her game-ending streak.
Welch was clearly back. She threw 21 of her last 27 pitches for strikes. She finished with 71 strikes and 26 balls in the no-hitter.
The perfect sixth and seventh innings finished a perfect season for the Lady Raiders.
"These girls deserve all the credit," coach Pavelski said. "I just go along for the ride."
Under Pavelski's guidance that ride has ended with a roundtrip to Shippensburg for the state final in three of the last five seasons. Two of the return trips have included a state championship trophy along as extra cargo.
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES
Welch was perfect at the plate in two state championship games, reaching base all six times.
Donovan had one of the biggest hits of the two state championship runs with a 10th-inning, game-winner against defending state champion South Williamsport in the 2004 state semifinal. She had two hits in the 2004 state final and three extra-base hits in the first three innings of this season's state semifinal.
Kas Ralston's hit sent Welch, who had reached on a walk, to third base with one out in the sixth.
Dayna Keene had Blue Ridge's only sacrifice.
Danielle Chase, who had 13 shutouts, four no-hitters, two perfect games, 261 strikeouts and an 0.52 earned run average this season, tried to pitch the final for Iroquois with a stress fracture in her right forearm.
Chase actually had more trouble on fielding plays that called for an overhand throw to first base. After two such plays, including one where she missed a chance to retire Welch on an infield single, Chase left at the end of the third inning.
Chase gave up three hits and a walk while getting one strikeout, the 629th of her career.
Freshman Lindsay Phillips took over and held Blue Ridge scoreless on two hits over the final three innings.
Iroquois is now 3-3 in state finals. The Braves, from District 10 (the Erie area), won in 1982, 1983 and 1991. They lost in 1981 and 1984.
The Braves started five seniors and had seven on their roster.
Welch and Mayes were the only senior starters for Blue Ridge. Jill Majeski is the team's only other senior.
Shortstop Jocelyn Dearborn, catcher Donovan, second baseman Ralston and center fielder Caryn Zurn, all juniors, started in the final. Dearborn was the team's leading hitter during the six previous playoff games that led to the state championship game berth.
The team’s only two sophomores, first baseman Erin Keene and left fielder Ashley Luce, both started.
Third baseman Erin Keene and designated hitter Carissa Stonier were the freshmen starters in the state final. Alissa Richardson came off the bench as a courtesy runner. Becca Hinkley started at times during the playoffs. Ashley Mattocks and Emily Knott were the other freshmen on the team.
Blue Ridge outscored its four state tournament opponents, 21-1. The only run allowed came during a downpour at Drifton in the state quarterfinals shortly before the game was suspended.
Lakeland, another unbeaten Lackawanna League and District 2 member, also reached the state final before losing, 2-1, to Harbor Creek in the Class AA game.
In high school baseball, Delaware Valley became the first District 2 team to win a Class AAAA state championship in any sport when it defeated Manheim Township, 7-1.
Jesse Johnson threw a four-hitter with seven strikeouts and had two hits in the win.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Blue Ridge reached the title game with ease when five straight players ripped run-scoring hits in the first inning of an 11-0, five-inning romp over Northern Cambria June 12 at Elm Park in Williamsport.
Donovan tripled down the left-field line to score Erin Keene. Welch then tripled to left-centerfield to score Donovan. Dearborn doubled to right field, then Ralston and Zurn followed with hits to left.
The Lady Raiders were not done.
Dayna Keene singled with one out in the second. Donovan doubled and Welch followed with a two-run single.
Zurn singled and moved up on a Mayes sacrifice in the third. The Keene sisters produced back-to-back RBI singles before Donovan's run-scoring triple made the lead 10-0.
Welch singled and scored on a Dearborn hit in the fifth.
Welch threw a three-hitter with five strikeouts.
In professional hockey, the Hershey Bears captured the American Hockey League's Calder Cup title with a 5-1 win over the Milwaukee Admirals.
Hershey won the best-of-seven championship series, 4-2.
This marks the third straight season that the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were eliminated by the eventual champion.
Frederic Cassivi made 25 saves in the clinching win. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs after matching a league record with 16 postseason wins, four of which came on shutouts.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
KAHNE Gets Rain-Shortened Michigan Win, Brooklyn, MI – Kasey Kahne got some help from Mother Nature Sunday as he won the 3M Performance 400 Nextel Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.
The race, scheduled for 200 laps, 400 miles over the two-mile track, was called after 129 laps, when strong thunderstorms moved in on the area.
Kasey Kahne celebrates with fans after his win Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.
It was Kahne's fourth victory of the season in his No. 9 Ray Evernham Dodge. He won races earlier in the season at Lowe's, Atlanta and Texas but this time, he didn't have to go the distance.
Kahne, who started on the pole was a victim of some bad luck early in the race when some paper stuck to his grill and he had to pit under green, losing a lap while his crew removed the debris.
He got the lap back on the next caution, however, and used pit strategy and a fast race car to get back to the front.
He had raced his way to second on a restart on Lap 117, behind the leader, Reed Sorenson.
When the green flew, Kahne quickly powered to the front.
Six laps later, the caution and then the red flag flew as rain – which had been a factor all day – moved over the speedway. Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., both who had led at different points during the race, were second and third, respectively, behind Kahne at that point.
Asked if he felt he would have won if the race had gone all 400 miles, Kahne said, “I know we would have challenged for it. I know Carl, Greg, the Hendrick cars were good. There were a few of them that were really good and we were one of them.”
Tony Stewart was hopping mad in the garage area after Jeff Green nudged Stewart’s car on lap 23, sending him hard into the outside wall. Stewart and his crew were able to repair the car, but he completed only 58 laps and wound up finishing 41st.
He dropped two positions in the standings, from fourth to sixth.
Green later said he had apologized to Stewart for wrecking him.
Matt Kenseth retained second spot in the points, but he lost ground after a 13th place finish.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Kasey Kahne, 2. Carl Edwards, 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 4. Greg Biffle, 5. Reed Sorenson, 6. Jimmie Johnson, 7. Casey Mears, 8. Jeff Gordon, 9. Kurt Busch, 10. Kevin Harvick.
Top-10 Chase contender leaders: 1. Johnson-2295, 2. Kenseth-2221, 3. Kahne-2051, 4. Earnhardt-2020, 5. Martin-1989, 6. Stewart-1928, 7. Burton-1888, 8. Harvick-1849, 9. Hamlin-1809, 10. Biffle-1807.
LONGSHOT ROOKIE Pulls Big Upset At Kentucky, Sparta, KY – Part-time Busch Series driver David Gilliland stunned the racing world with his first career victory in the Meijer 300, Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, in only his seventh series start.
His win in itself was spectacular, but what made it even bigger was that he became the first non-Busch Series driver to win a race this season. All of the previous 15 races have been won by Cup regulars.
The Chino, CA native called his win a “big bite,” but said he has bigger dreams of someday racing in the Nextel Cup Series, therefore he had no regrets of having to race against several Cup drivers during Saturday’s race.
“That’s where I want to be,” he said. “To be able to do it you’re going to have to race against them, and beat them. We did it tonight.”
He drove the unsponsored No. 84 Clay Andrews Racing Chevrolet. Like another David of another time, Gilliland took on NASCAR’s Goliaths and came out the victor. Crew chief Billy Wilburn, who guided NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace to numerous Cup Series wins in the past, never lost hope for a win even though his driver was forced to restart from the 19th spot early in the race due to a bad pit stop.
Following Gilliland was a hard-charging J.J. Yeley in search of his first series win. Behind Yeley was Hamlin with Mike Wallace and Ashton Lewis, Jr. rounding out the top five. Harvick, Greg Biffle, David Reutimann, Paul Menard and Robert Yates development driver Stephen Leicht made up the top-10.
Kevin Harvick increased his lead to 372 points over Carl Edwards.
Top-10 Busch leaders: 1. Harvick-2541, 2. Edwards-2169, 3. Hamlin-2128, 4. Bowyer-2125, 5. Biffle-2035, 6. Yeley-2030, 7. Kyle Busch-1948, 8. Menard-1925, 9. J. Sauter-1720, 10. K. Wallace-1719.
BENSON Wins MIS Truck Race – Johnny Benson held off Mark Martin and Bobby Labonte during a green-white-checkered finish to win the Con-Way Freight 200 at Michigan. It was Benson's first Craftsman Truck Series victory, making him the 17th driver to win in all three series.
Top-10 points leaders: 1. Bodine-1650, 2. Reutimann-1472, 3. Musgrave-1469, 4. Benson-1443, 5. Sprague-1337, 6. Crawford-1318, 7. Setzer-1317, 8. Crafton-1315, 9. Starr-1311, 10. Bliss-13108.
The Busch and Truck teams will be at Milwaukee, while the Nextel Cup teams travel west to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma CA, for their first road course race of the season.
Friday, June 23, Craftsman Trucks Milwaukee 200, race 11 of 25, 200 laps, 9 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, June 24, Busch Series SBC 250, race 17 of 35, 250 laps, 8:30 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Sunday, June 25, Dodge/Save Mart 350, race 16 of 36, 110 laps, 3 p.m.
Racing Trivia Question: When will Toyota begin fielding Nextel Cup cars?
Last Week’s Racing Trivia Question: Burney Lamar is a new driver in the Busch Series. Which team does he drive for? He drives the No. 77 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet.
You may read additional racing stories at www.race500.com.
The Racing Reporter
The NASCAR of yesterday is gone, but many of its heroes live on.
Bud Moore is one of those legendary men that helped put NASCAR where it is today.
Moore remembers June 5, 1944, sixty-two years ago. The history-changing “Longest Day” of World War II, was the beginning of the drive to free Europe from the German Reich of Adolf Hitler.
And Moore, destined to become one of the top team owners in NASCAR during a racing career spanning five decades, took a very active part in the battle.
“I was in the 90th Infantry Division, 359th Regiment, D Company, First Platoon,” Bud, now 81, recalls with justifiable pride. “I was a corporal.
“I was a machine gunner, and had a tripod for a 30-caliber machine gun on my back and it weighed 51 pounds. My pack weighed 30-to-40 more pounds, so the going was tough. I stepped into a hole that the German artillery – which was zeroing in on us – had blown in the ocean bottom. I was in water over my head, and I thought I was going to drown.
“But I swam a little bit and found footing.
“About that time a boy near me got hit and just disappeared.
“Finally, I got to the beach and right then I realized what war was all about. It's crazy.
“I had just turned 19 and here someone I'd never seen was trying to kill me. My folks had raised me right, and I thought I was a decent human being. I couldn't imagine shooting someone or having them shoot me.
“But on that beach I realized those Germans in front of us were going to kill us unless, by God, we shot them first. You learned pretty quick what it took to survive.
“A lot of fellers got hit, some of them my buddies. We felt it was awful, and it was. We had about 200 casualties.”
Moore was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service and promoted to sergeant for his outfit's continuing fight across France, into Germany and on to Czechoslovakia.
Enroute, he got a second Bronze Star, with clusters. He had been on the front lines nine months and 14 days without being evacuated or being hurt seriously enough to miss combat.
“I guess it was bound to happen,” he continued. “We were pulling into an abandoned complex, which I think had been a hospital. We got into a heck of a fight. I took three slugs in the left thigh.”
These wounds brought the first of five Purple Hearts that Moore eventually received.
Bud's outfit was near Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, meeting a Russian force, when he learned of Germany's unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945.
Victory came 11 months and two days after Moore and thousands of other Allied soldiers fought their way ashore on the beaches of Normandy.
Bud left Europe for home on November 1, 1945 aboard the USS Excelsior, named for Excelsior Mills in Union County, S.C., not far from his Spartanburg home.
Moore, a member of several motorsports halls of fame, went on to become a NASCAR pioneer. He started fielding cars in 1950 and continued to "go racing" until 1999, when he sold his operation and retired.
Among his drivers through the decades were, Fireball Roberts, Darel Dieringer, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and Joe Weatherly, all hall-of-famers.
Moore was the crew chief for Buck Baker's NASCAR championship run in 1957. He owned the cars that Weatherly drove to titles in 1962 and '63. Bud took a NASCAR Grand American championship in '68 with Tiny Lund as driver, and a Sports Car Club of America Trans-Am title in 1970 with Parnelli Jones.
His colorful career includes some significant accomplishments. Dieringer won Darlington's Southern 500 in a Moore-fielded car in 1966. Buddy Baker won three straight 500-milers at Talladega Superspeedway for Moore in 1975-76, and in 1978 Bobby Allison drove a Moore-owned machine to victory in the Daytona 500 and the National 500 at the track then known as Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Overall, NASCAR credits Moore with 63 wins and 43 poles as a team owner on what's now the Nextel Cup level.
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