Ligonier Valley’s offense grounded in season-ending loss to Chestnut Ridge

Thursday, May 23, 2019 | 8:39 PM

FISHERTOWN — Ligonier Valley softball fans, agonizing with each run allowed by their beloved Rams on Thursday, momentarily were distracted from the reality of a soon-to-be, season-ending 7-1 loss to top-seeded Chestnut Ridge in the District 5/6 Class 3A semifinals.

It was a welcome reprieve on an otherwise miserable trip to Bedford County.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a pair of low-flying aircraft in succession whizzed over the Chestnut Ridge High School complex, bringing the playoff game to a brief halt as everyone — players, coaches and umpires included — stared in awe.

Thoughts soon returned to the game, though some fans were overheard discussing a possibility the planes were headed to Arnold Palmer Regional Airport for the scheduled Westmoreland County Airshow on Saturday and Sunday.

“That would be my guess,” Ligonier Valley coach Mark Zimmerman said afterward. “They were howling. One of the girls said in the dugout, ‘Coach, I knew we were either going to see something neat or we were really in trouble.’ ”

As it turned out, both suggestions were correct.

The planes, loud and low, wowed the sizable gathering behind the high school building. That took care of the “neat” part. The “trouble” came in the form of a red-hot Chestnut Ridge team that spotted the Rams a one-run lead, then proceeded to pound them into submission.

Makayla Weyant went 3 for 4, including her first home run, and had three RBIs, and right-hander Attie Milliron handcuffed Ligonier Valley by yielding just one of the Rams’ five hits after the second inning to lead Chestnut Ridge (19-3).

The Lions, champions of the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference, will meet No. 2 Bald Eagle Area in the Class 3A championship game on Wednesday at St. Francis (Pa.).

“This one assures us of going to the state tournament,” first-year Chestnut Ridge coach Greg Lazor said.

Both District 5/6 finalists earned automatic bids to the PIAA playoffs, where Chestnut Ridge never has won a game.

“It was a gutsy performance out there today,” Lazor said. “We had a couple of little blunders at the beginning of the game, but then, the defense really tightened up and played solid. Milliron pitched her tail off, and we came up with some big hits.”

Ligonier Valley (17-3) strung together three hits in the second to scratch out its only run when Mia Lynn’s RBI single scored Abby Cmar for a 1-0 lead.

The Rams got just one more hit — Courtney McKlveen’s third-inning single — as Milliron, who struck out just two and walked none, retired 12 of the final 13 Ligonier Valley batters.

The Rams’ only runner during that time was Kaylee Colt, whose line drive to right field was misplayed by Jamie Emerick for an error.

Zimmerman understandably was disappointed with his team’s defensive lapses during the playoffs, saying “the error bug reared its ugly head” again.

Ligonier Valley, the Heritage Conference champion, committed four errors against Chestnut Ridge and seven in its previous game, a 9-8, 10-inning victory over Central (Martinsburg) in the quarterfinals Monday.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “We didn’t get some timely hits when we needed them, and the error bug has been a problem lately.”

Chestnut Ridge took a 3-1 lead in the third against Ligonier Valley right-hander Jane Garver, who surrendered 10 hits and walked two. She struck out four.

Lydia Mock led off the inning with a triple and scored on a fielder’s choice that allowed Kayla Diehl to reach first. Diehl scored on Emerick’s groundout, and Weyant, who reached on a single, crossed on Lynn’s error at second.

The Lions increased the lead to 6-1 in the fifth. Diehl tripled and Weyant homered over the center-field fence before Emerick walked and scored on Sam Baney’s single.

The final Chestnut Ridge run scored just after the planes made their appearance in the sixth, as Mock singled, moved to second on a groundout and scored on Weyant’s single.

“We had a pretty good year again,” Zimmerman said. “I’m disappointed we couldn’t keep this thing going and get to the state playoffs, but I’ve been at this for 20 years so far, all at the same place, and it’s been an interesting ride.”


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