Steel Valley girls upset 6th-seed Burrell for 1st playoff win since 2006
TribLIVE Sports Videos
As Matt Janov was filling out a preseason questionnaire about his Steel Valley softball team and came across the section on team expectations, he contemplated for a moment before answering: “We expect to compete to achieve a winning record and compete for a playoff berth.”
Fast forward two months, and Janov doesn't mind one bit how much he underestimated his team.
Skyler Vinay's two-run double in the third inning was all the scoring Steel Valley needed, and freshman Maddie Cotter kept free-swinging Burrell off balance as the Lady Ironmen won their first playoff game in seven years with a 2-1 upset of sixth-seeded Burrell (14-5) at Gateway.
It was Steel Valley's first playoff win since a 3-2 victory over Deer Lakes in 2006.
“I thought we really had a good chance of making the playoffs at the beginning of the year, but to beat a team like that who has been to the championship game two of the past three years, there's no way I would've thought that,” Janov said. “But as the year went on, we just kept playing teams tough. After that, I knew we could play.”
Steel Valley (12-5) will take on undefeated and third-seeded Riverside (16-0), a 10-0 winner over Bentworth, in the quarterfinals next week at a time and date to be determined.
“This is a great feeling to win a playoff game especially coming in my senior year,” Vinay said. “We wanted to go out with a big bang.”
While it was Vinay's big bang — her 10th double of the season in the third that gave Steel Valley all of its runs, it was a play performed to perfection in the last inning that sealed the victory.
With the score 2-1 in the seventh, pinch runner Courtney Wolford moved from first to third on a sacrifice bunt that eventually had a trio of Steel Valley players converging for the ball at an uncovered third base.
“I heard that they were very aggressive on the base paths, but wow,” Janov said.
Turns out Burrell was just a little too aggressive.
Krista York missed an apparent safety squeeze, and when the ball got past Steel Valley freshman catcher Chelsea Rohan, Wolford broke for the plate despite the short backstop at Gateway.
“I was surprised that they sent her,” Janov said. “But our freshmen are just so smart. They just know the game and know what to do at the right time.”
Rohan flipped the ball to Cotter, who tagged Wolford well before reaching home for the second out.
“We worked on that play during every practice, and we knew it was going to happen one day or another,” Cotter said. “That was the first time all year that we had to do that, and it worked out.”
Cotter kept Burrell off balance the entire game in earning her 12th win. Cotter, who was averaging eight strikeouts per game, managed only two against Burrell, but was able to induce 14 fly ball outs.
“I wasn't trying to get them to pop up, but it worked,” said Cotter, who has 128 strikeouts this year.
Steel Valley banged out nine hits off Burrell's Claire Fisher, including two from Paige Mitrik, but couldn't push across any more runs despite having two on with one out in the fourth and leadoff singles in the fifth and sixth.
“Man, I kept thinking that we needed that third run,” Janov said. “I figured we would need three. Turns out we didn't.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.