Freeport squanders chances in loss to unbeaten Neshannock
Members of Freeport's softball team began to think of themselves as upset specialists after back-to-back wins against high seeds in the 2010 and 2011 WPIAL playoffs.
But the Yellowjackets became just another notch in unbeaten Neshannock's bat Thursday as they fell to Class AA's top seed, 4-0, at North Allegheny.
Freeport (15-4), the No. 9 seed, had its chances to end the shutout and even close the deficit, but the team stranded runners in scoring position during five of the seven innings. Neshannock (19-0) finished with fewer than five runs for just the third time, but its offensive output sufficed thanks to the Lancers' reliable pitching and defense.
“We kept saying that we were due for another big upset,” said senior Micaela Kurn, who belonged to squads that beat No. 2 seeds in the first round the past two seasons.
“We were like ‘Let's do it again,' ” junior Alyssa Meta said. “We talked about it a lot.”
Marissa DeMatteo hit a leadoff double to open the bottom of the first and scored two batters later on an infield single and error to put Neshannock ahead, 1-0. Amanda Furst then hit an RBI double to give the Lancers even more of an early cushion.
In the third inning, a dropped fly ball in right field allowed Jade Hilliard to get on base, and she advanced to second for Freeport's first serious scoring threat. But consecutive outs followed.
The trend continued for the Yellowjackets. Ashley Sample hit a leadoff double in the fourth. Emily Lindsey doubled with two outs in the fifth. Sample, Kurn and Amanda Brestensky loaded the bases in the sixth. And Meta hit a two-out double in the seventh.
Stabilized by Furst, its pitcher and lone senior, Neshannock escaped each jam.
“They've got big girls with good speed,” Freeport coach Sam Ross said. “They cover the field well. Of course, we did, too. I thought, playing a team of that quality, we hung right with them. It was nothing to be ashamed with at all.”
DeMatteo and Rayanna Furst each finished 3 for 3 with two runs. Amanda Furst allowed six hits, struck out three and walked one.
“We're comfortable just scoring four runs because we know it's going to take a pretty good effort to beat us,” Neshannock coach Tracy Kimmel said. “We play good (defense). It usually takes about three good things to happen in a row for the other team to score a run on us.”
Freeport's quarterfinal-round loss was its third in as many years.
“Maybe we can do it next year,” Meta, a junior, said of reaching the semifinals. “Hopefully, we'll do it next year.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1321.