Pitching, defense lead Montour softball into PIAA semifinals
Montour pitcher Kaitlyn Kutchman practically won a PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal-round game by herself on Thursday.
The senior was strong on the mound and went 3 for 3 with 2 RBI at the plate.
But Kutchman got some much needed defensive help from right fielder Megan Vacco and catcher Malory Gerst en route to a 4-1 victory against Greensburg Salem at North Allegheny High School.
With Montour clinging to a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning, Greensburg Salem had runners on second and third with no outs. Kutchman struck out Melissa Wagner and got Sydney Bacha to fly out to shallow center field
But just when she thought she was going to escape the jam, Greensburg Salem designated player Madison Hantz lined a sharp shot to right field for an apparent game-tying hit.
Vacco charged the ball and threw a perfect strike to first baseman Katie Gales to retire Hantz and end the inning.
“I was thinking home first,” Vacco said. “But when I saw the runner only halfway down the line, I knew I had a shot at her. We practice it all the time, but this was the first time it worked.”
The play ignited Montour offense, as well, as the Spartans plated three runs in the bottom of the inning to stretch the lead to 4-0.
Gerst homered in the third inning to give Montour a 1-0 lead. Stacy Capp singled home the second run and Kutchman doubled home two more in the fifth. Kutchman had two doubles in the game.
“That was such a big play by Megan,” Montour coach Bill Wills said. “We do practice making those throws, but we don't practice it coming off the second baseman's glove.”
Greensburg Salem coach Jody Morgan said it just wasn't her team's day.
“I thought we were going to get them,” Morgan said. “It was one of those things that they were able to stop our rally. She threw her out by a couple steps, but the ball got out there so quick.”
Greensburg Salem (17-4) was able to score a run in the sixth inning when Kellie Hutchinson, who doubled to open the fifth inning, singled home losing pitcher Jayne Oberdorf, who walked. On the relay throw, Gerst gunned down Taylor Mehan trying to advance to third.
The Golden Lions' defense also came up big as center fielder Alyssa Mellinger threw out a runner trying to score on a hit in the fourth inning.
Oberdorf allowed eight hits, but didn't walk a batter and struck out seven. Kutchman allowed six hits and had six strikeouts.
“We'll be back next year,” Morgan said. “The girls learned how fun it was to get this far and what it took to get here.”
Montour (19-5) advances to the semifinals Monday against District 3 third-place finisher Big Spring (22-4) — a 2-1 winner over District 10 champ Fort LeBoeuf — at a site and time to be determined.
“It's a great feeling to get to this point,” Wills said. “Montour has had a lot of success in athletics, but we've never been able to win a state title. It would be great to lead the legacy.”
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5095 or firstname.lastname@example.org.