Greensburg Central Catholic bats silenced by Riverside
Greensburg Central Catholic made it into the second round of the PIAA Class AA softball tournament because of its ability to hit the ball.
But Riverside starter Kari Falk has a penchant for keeping the opposition's bats very quiet, and she silenced the Greensburg Central Catholic offense.
Falk allowed only three hits and retired 20 of the last 21 batters she faced as two-time WPIAL Class AA champion Riverside (20-1) moved into the state semifinals with a 5-0 victory over Greensburg Central Catholic (14-7) at North Allegheny High School. Riverside will now play District 6 champion Bald Eagle Area - a state finalist last year - on Monday at a site and time to be determined.
Greensburg Central Catholic was in the state playoffs for the first time since 2005, but faced a tough task against Falk, an Edinboro recruit, who has pitched Riverside at least into the WPIAL semifinals for the last three seasons.
"That's been our forte all year is that we hit the ball, and I don't know what she was throwing. We got some dinks but we couldn't make solid contact," Greensburg Central Catholic coach Gary Ciarimboli said. "It was probably a combination of (things), but we usually hit the balls and they fly, but they didn't fly. We got one solid hit and two dinky hits."
If Greensburg Central Catholic could have taken advantage of its two dinky hits - the combined distance traveled by the two balls was less that that from the pitcher's mound to home plate - the complexion of the game may have changed.
Starting pitcher Emily Nowicki opened the game for the Lady Centurions by flipping her bat out for an excuse-me, check-swing dribbler down the third-base line that she beat out for a single. Breanna Appleby took a full swing at a 1-2 offering from Falk and beat it into the ground less than a foot from home plate in fair territory.
Riverside catcher Chelsea Evans flipped off her mask, but was looking for a foul pop-up behind her and didn't see the ball in time, as Appleby scooted down the line and reached first without a throw. Both runners moved up into scoring position on a ground out, but Falk recovered and struck out Alie Perz and Katie Ferdarko to get out of the inning unscathed.
"It was probably a turning point," Ciarimboli said. "I'm not going to say that it was the point. If we score there, it could be a different game and it might not be. In hindsight, maybe I should have gone small-ball, but we lived and died all season the way we did by going for the hit."
That was Greensburg Central Catholic's lone opportunity. Riverside leadoff hitter Leah Prisuta opened the home half of the first by ripping a 2-1 offering from Nowicki over the right-center field fence for a home run and a 1-0 lead. Evans followed with a single and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Falk for a 2-0 lead.
"That was huge and you could just feel the enthusiasm from this dugout," Riverside coach Pam McCarty said. "You just knew that something was going to happen and that was huge."
From there it was all Falk, who recovered from those two opening hits to retire 14 consecutive batters and 21 of the last 22 she faced. After the first inning, shortstop Haley Galiotto was the only Greensburg Central Catholic player to reach base when she singled up the middle with two outs in the fifth.
"When Kari's on there's just nothing like her," McCarty said. "You just don't realize until you look at the book because you're so caught up in the game, but holy cow. She's just awesome, she has the right attitude to have and everybody should have somebody like Kari on the mound."