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May 28—PATTON — Cambria Heights didn’t need big bats or unhittable pitching to gain a big upper hand in the Highlanders’ District 6 Class 3A softball semifinal game with visiting Richland on Thursday.

All it took was Emma Stockley’s glove.

With runners on second and third and no one out in the top of the first, Stockley made a fantastic defensive play to turn what appeared to be a two-run single into a double play. Cambria Heights got out of the frame unscathed and immediately put two runs on the board in the bottom of the inning, eventually riding the wave to a 10-0 victory in five innings to send the Highlanders into the district final for the first time.

“It really set the tone for the rest of the game,” Highlander senior pitcher Paige Jones said.

Jones struck out eight and spaced six hits to get the shutout, then singled with one down in the bottom of the fifth to drive in Martina White with the game-ending run. Lexi Griak delivered a two-run single to punctuate a seven-run Highlander fourth that broke the game wide open — Griak was one of six Highlanders with a hit.

Now 20-1 and on a 17-game winning streak, Cambria Heights will take on perennial power Bald Eagle Area on Wednesday at St. Francis University for the District 6 title. Win or lose, the Highlanders have qualified for the PIAA tournament.

“It’s absolutely surreal. This is an absolute dream come true,” an energized Stockley said. “This is what I’ve worked for, what our team has worked for, since the very beginning. This is very exciting for us.”

Maybe even as exciting as her defensive gem.

Cambria Heights had beaten Richland, 7-1, early in the season. The Rams, though, seemed undaunted when Ava Wenderoth opened the game with an infield hit and No. 2 hitter Anna Burke moved her to third with a double into the gap in right-center.

That brought Logan Roman to the plate.

After taking Jones’ first offering for a ball, Roman laced the next pitch back up the middle for an apparent two-run single. Stockley, though, had other intentions, diving to her left snare the liner in sensational fashion, then getting to her knees and tossing the ball to second baseman Karli Storm to double off Burke.

“I thought, ‘The only way I’m going to get this is if I lay out.’ So I did what I could to get the ball,” Stockley said. “Then I got it over to Karli and we got the double play. I’m glad I could do that for the team to get momentum for us and get us going.”

Jones then caught Laikyn Roman’s popup for the third out, leaving Wenderoth on third.

“I’m going to be honest, I was really nervous, but she really came through there and made that great play,” Jones said of Stockley. “I have great defense behind me.”

Cambria Heights coach Drew Thomas was unsurprised by his senior shortstop’s fielding excellence.

“She has made plays like that for four years. She is just such a leader. When she made that catch, everyone fed off of it,” Thomas said. “Our girls are just full of confidence right now.”

Cambria Heights almost immediately scored two runs when Jones and senior catcher Ari Westrick reached on errors and crossed the plate on a single by Storm and a groundout by Maddie Bender. The Highlanders took complete command in the fourth when they plated seven runs on just three hits as Richland’s defense came apart and made five errors.

“It’s been hit and miss with our defense. I think nerves had something to do with it,” Richland coach John Ahlborn said. “That was huge when she caught that line drive. That was an awesome play.”

Wenderoth went 2-for-3. Ram pitcher Noelle Wechtenhiser only allowed two earned runs as Richland ended the year 14-4.

“Coming into the season, I really kept my expectations low, because all the other years we didn’t even make it to the playoffs,” Wechtenhiser said. “We came in this year working harder. … We’ve got a lot of underclassmen who are really good. I believe they’ll bring this team to the D6 championship.”

For Cambria Heights, however, that time is now. Or, at least, next week.

“We were so excited before the game. Just a quick, good play at the beginning gets us ready for the rest of the game,” Stockley said.