South Side Beaver softball team drops Chartiers-Houston in PIAA semifinals
South Side Beaver took advantage of an early outburst and is on its way to the school's first PIAA softball title game.
The Rams jumped on perennial contender Chartiers-Houston for five first-inning runs and rolled to a 7-2 victory in a Class 2A semifinal at Cal (Pa.'s) Lilley Field.
Senior Hunter Hand had a double, single and three RBIs to pace South Side's 13-hit attack.
The Rams (20-3) will face long-time power Minersville for the state crown at 11 a.m. Thursday at Penn State's Nittany Lion Park. The nine-time state champion Fighting Miners easily disposed of Bristol, 15-0, in four innings Monday.
“This is great,” said South Side coach Amy Pieto. “These girls deserve it. They've worked so hard. It's wonderful.”
But South Side's road to University Park wasn't without some potholes.
Starting pitcher McKenna Smith was lifted in the second inning after being called for seven illegal pitches. Chartiers-Houston's Kayla Alderson led off the bottom of the first with a single and came around to score on three illegal pitches.
Reliever Regan Hozak had to pitch out of a couple of jams to preserve the victory.
“I told coach before the game that I was willing to pitch,” Hozak said. “We knew they were going to try and call McKenna on that. I warmed up, and I was ready.”
The first four Rams batters hit safely against Bucs starter Kaitlyn Dittrich, forcing Alderson to make an early move.
Karlyn Bayer replaced Dittrich in the circle after a double and three singles gave South Side a 3-0 lead.
Mackenzie Freeman hit a sacrifice fly, and Dani-Jo Miller singled to cap the inning.
“The first inning killed us,” said Bucs coach Trish Alderson. “They came out hitting the ball and scored five runs. We only gave up two the rest of the way. We had some opportunities here and there, but we weren't able to cash in.”
“That first inning was really great. It helped get the butterflies out,” Pieto said. “When we jumped ahead right away, that made things easier.”
Bayer limited the Rams to three runs, but the first-inning surge was too much for Chartiers-Houston to overcome.
Hand's double brought home Capri Sollinger-Knisley in the fourth, and Freeman doubled home Rachel Pieto to cap the scoring.
“We tried to not take any game for granted,” coach Pieto said. “We try to wipe the slate clean and try to start every game fresh.”
South Side Beaver defeated Chartiers-Houston twice during the regular season by 12-2 and 10-0 margins.
Hozak had to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam in the second, striking out Kayla Alderson to end the threat.
Freshman Kaci Alderson doubled in Kasey Scears in the fifth to conclude the Chartiers scoring
The Bucs (18-5) were trying to make the state finals for a sixth time — the first since 2010.
“We did a great job this year,” coach Alderson said. “We moved up from single A to be one of the smallest schools in double A, so to make it to the final four of the state, I'm really proud of these kids.”
George Guido is a freelance writer.