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Canon-Mac brings home 1st WPIAL championship

| Thursday, May 31, 2012, 9:14 p.m.
Canon-McMillan players Giorgiana Zeremenko (left) and Alayna Astuto hoist the championship trophy after defeating Hempfield in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship on Thursday, May 31, 2012, at California (Pa.) University. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Hempfield Area players (from left) Nina Italiano, Alyssa Bates and Maddie Knizner look on as Canon McMillan receives their championship medals after losing 4-1 to the Big Macs in the WPIAL AAAA championship contest on May 31, 2012 on the California University of Pennsylvania campus. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Canon McMillan's Olivia Lorusso is mobbed by teammates after she hit a three-run home run during their WPIAL AAAA championship contest victory over Hempfield Area on May 31, 2012 on the California University of Pennsylvania campus. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Canon McMillan junior Jake Cadez (far right), 17, uses his friends to ask out Canon McMillan player Maddie Engel after their WPIAL AAAA championship contest victory over Hempfield Area on May 31, 2012 on the California University of Pennsylvania campus. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Hempfield Area players (from left) Justyne Falbo, Nina Italiano, Alyssa Bates and Maddie Knizner look on as Canon McMillan receives their championship medals after losing 4-1 to the Big Macs in the WPIAL AAAA championship contest on May 31, 2012 on the California University of Pennsylvania campus. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Canon McMillan short stop Veronica Rothka looks to turn a double play as Hempfield baserunner Nina Italiano slides in to second during their WPIAL AAAA championship contest on May 31, 2012 on the California University of Pennsylvania campus. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

The Canon-McMillan softball team liked California (Pa.) University's Lilley Field so much it didn't want to leave Thursday night.

An hour after Canon-McMillan defeated Hempfield, 4-1, in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game, the Big Macs were still celebrating on the field, posing for photos and hugging each other.

It was Canon-McMillan's first WPIAL softball title.

“It's a great feeling,” Canon-McMillan coach Michele Moeller said. “We knew they were capable of it. All week we preached to them stay calm and enjoy this battle.”

The game developed into a pitchers' duel during the first three innings. Canon-McMillan's Alayna Astuto worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the second, and Hempfield's Karilynn Null retired every batter she faced, including four strikeouts.

But in the fourth inning, Canon-McMillan batters made an adjustment and stood deeper in the batter's box, resulting in four hits and four runs.

Abby McCartney snapped a scoreless game with a two-out, RBI double, and Olivia Lorusso followed with a three-run homer on an 0-2 pitch. It was the sophomore's seventh home run.

“She got me out with a change-up in second inning, but I was looking for it the next time,” Lorusso said. “I listened to my coach.”

Null said: “Credit goes to the batter on the double. The home run, I left the change-up up in the zone. That was my fault.”

It was the second time Canon-McMillan (16-5) defeated Hempfield (18-5) this season. The Big Macs won, 1-0, on April 2.

“We told Alayna not to expect to get 10 strikeouts against them,” Moeller said. “They are going to put the ball in play, so we worked on a lot of defense. Abby and Olivia have come up with big hits all season. We were ready for the girl's change-up.”

Hempfield scored when Maddy Knizner doubled in the seventh inning and scored on a groundout by Sarah DiOrio.

“The first time we faced her, she struck out 10,” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said. “The thought was if we put the ball in play, we'd have a chance. But to her credit, she wiggled out of trouble. They did a nice job defensively behind her.”

Both teams will enter the PIAA playoffs Monday. Canon-McMillan will face District 10 champion Erie McDowell, which beat City League champion Brashear, 7-1, in a play-in game Thursday, and Hempfield faces District 6 champion Central Mountain.

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5095 or pschofield@tribweb.com.

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