Sun shines on DuBois Central Catholic in PIAA Class A softball win over Carmichaels

Thursday, June 13, 2024 | 1:23 PM

STATE COLLEGE – Carmichaels was facing a tough battle in the PIAA Class A softball championship game Thursday afternoon, taking on a DuBois Central Catholic team making its third state final appearance in six years.

The Cardinals’ pitcher, Rylee Kulbatsky, was already known as a dangerous opponent. But the Mikes had to face another obstacle, rarely seen by high school teams: a clear, blue noon sky.

The difficulty both teams had in tracking high popups to the outfield proved to be crucial in DuBois CC’s 2-0 victory over Carmichaels at Penn State’s Beard Field.

Lost popups were factors in both runs that the Cardinals scored and played into the best scoring chances the Mikes (19-3) had. However, Kulbatsky proved to be the most impactful player of the game, throwing four perfect innings and striking out 15 batters.

“Their pitcher was tough. That was pretty much the story of the game,” Carmichaels coach Dave Briggs said. “It may have been nerves. I know she was moving the ball. It may have been a combination of both.”

Carmichaels first baseman Ali Jacobs had two of the Mikes’ three hits.

“Most of us moved up in the box to get (the pitch) before it broke,” Jacobs said. “But it broke so early.”

Mikes pitcher Bailey Barnyak also threw well, striking out eight and making a defensive assist to erase a baserunner. But Carmichaels never put a runner on third, so Barnyak was left with no margin for error.

DuBois CC (23-2) scored single runs in the fifth and sixth to decide the game, and lost fly balls opened the door to both.

“There were a couple of plays that we should have made,” Briggs said.

In the top of the fifth, an apparent easy fly ball to left center by Lexi Berta dropped in for a two-out double. Marina Hanes followed with a ball to left field that Payton Plavi made a diving attempt for, only to have the ball hit the ground in front of her and bounce off of her. Berta scored and Hanes made it to second.

Center fielder Duski Staggers’ throw to the infield went awry, but Barnyak chased it down and threw Hanes at out third to end the inning.

In the sixth, Jessy Frank led off with a bloop double to center that appeared to be lost in the sky again. She scored on Melia Mitskavich’s triple to make it 2-0 in favor of the District 9 champion.

In between, the Mikes took advantage of the difficult situation against DuBois CC’s outfielders, when Ali Jacobs hit a fifth-inning lead-off bloop single to center for Carmichaels’ first baserunner.

Carmichaels’ best chance to score came in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Alayna Simon reached on an infield error on a bunt, followed by a bunt single by Kaitlyn Wright. Facing her first real jam, two runners on and one out, Kulbatsky struck out Barnyak and induced a foul pop by Carys McConnell.

Jacobs led off the bottom of the seventh with a line-drive double to left center, one of the few clean hits for either side. But Kulbatsky induced a pop out and struck out the last two batters.

There had been fly balls in the first inning that foreshadowed the difficulties to come in the crucial late innings.

Hanes led off the game with a deep but lazy fly ball to center that Staggers had to stab at over her head at the last second to get the out. Kayley Risser hit a fly to seventh that hit Plavi’s glove and fell, allowing Risser to reach second. Risser’s fly was the only one of the balls to the outfield to be scored an error, so both runs against Barnyak were earned runs.

There were no walks or hit batters in the game.


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