Northern region softball playoff capsules
Shaler softball coach Skip Palmer has dome a lot during the course of his career, and although the opening round of the playoffs this season was nothing new in a sense, some history was made.
For the first time under Palmer's watch, a freshman pitcher started the season and the playoffs. And, for the first time as far as Palmer can recall, he witnessed a perfect game.
Shaler pitcher Brianna Dobson started the first playoff game of her career, and although she said she was nervous, she tossed a perfect game against Woodland Hills in an 11-0, six-inning win.
“This is a big thing for the six sophomores and freshman who played,” Palmer said. “Some of the kids were scared, but we needed this under our belt and the kids grew up a lot today.”
“I had to show we were good enough to win,” Dobson said. “As the game moved on, I saw the number on the scoreboard and I was thinking about it.
“It is awesome, and I am really confident right now.”
Shaler's offense got going early thanks to senior shortstop Maddie Mulig, who went 4 for 4 at the plate with two singles, an RBI double, and a two-run homer in the top of the first inning to score the winning runs.
“Usually you feel it, but I had no idea it was going out,” Mulig said. “I ran and just heard everyone start cheering. I was nervous, but I had to do it for my team.”
Also having big days at the plate were Racheal Nyman, Dobson and Abby Hummel with doubles; and Nichols with three hits.
Third baseman Julia Strackhouse had a busy afternoon as it seemed almost every batter who didn't strikeout chopped a ball to her. Strackhouse made every throw with pinpoint accuracy.
“It all starts in practice,” Strackhouse said. “It keeps going in warmups, and it is awesome we won.”
In what will be a season to remember for the Pine-Richland softball team, the heartbreaking end against Peters Township stunned everyone.
With the score tied, 4-4, in the bottom of the seventh inning, two outs and bases loaded, Peters Township hit a grand slam to win the game, 8-4, and end the Lady Rams' magical season.
“It was a very good game,” Pine-Richland coach Patty White said. “We fought hard to come back. We had a close game with North Allegheny and beat Shaler and Seneca Valley, so I think we proved we can play with these teams.”
It was sad as the seniors addressed the team, but White said many of them cited this season as their favorite, and she could not say enough about how proud she was of all of them.
Seniors Alyssa Clark, Steph Zentz, Julia Frazier Izzy Tortorice, Cayla Vorndran and Sigita Ivaska contributed, and White said it will be tough to lose that group.
“Alyssa was a four-year starter, and Julia was a three-year starter,” White said. “Steph, too, those will be tough spots to fill.
“And Izzy pitched every game. I am not sure how many pitchers can do what she did.”
There are some freshmen who will move up next season, and White said the playoff experience is something she hopes motivates the future stars of the team.
Pine-Richland finished 8-4 in the section and 8-7 overall. The team opened the season with a four-game section winning streak.
The Hampton softball team did many good things this season, however one recurring bad thing came back to bite the Lady Talbots in the playoffs.
To start with the positive, Hampton battled hard to make the postseason in a section that saw four teams tie for second place. The Lady Talbots essentially had a playoff game at Highlands, and a win got them into the playoffs.
The bats served the team well as the team averaged about five runs a game. Pitcher Claire Welka also came along to help the team compete.
In the first round of the playoffs, Hampton met Blackhawk, and through 4 1⁄2 innings, Hampton looked like the team that won five section games and defeated teams like Mars and Gateway.
In the second inning, a double by Megan Thorton was followed by an RBI single by Jocelyn White. Morgan Gillespie's RBI triple set up Kateryna Bittner's RBI single and a 3-0 Hampton lead.
In the top of the fifth, an RBI triple by Sam Clutter and another RBI from Amber Martinelli put Hampton in control, 5-1.
But then it happened — the one thing the Lady Talbots seemed to be plagued by all season.
“One bad inning,” Hampton coach Ron Fedell said. “It was my concern all year. It killed us.”
Leading, 5-1, after the top of the fifth inning, Hampton surrendered three runs in the bottom of the fifth aided by two errors.
“We should have given up one run, two tops,” Fedell said. “That bad inning haunted us … we talked about it and talked about it, but that is the way our season went.
“But we played 10 innings and what was great — we never quit. Everyone battled and never gave up. I am happy about that.”
Blackhawk tied the game in the bottom of the sixth, and when the 10th inning rolled around, a courtesy runner was placed on second at the start of each inning. When Blackhawk's Heather Barrett singled in the bottom of the 10th, the Lady Talbots' season came to a close.
“We had our chances,” Fedell said. “I am proud of our seniors. They took the youth of the team under their wing, and the young kids got some valuable experience, which was good to see.”
Hampton will graduate a stellar group: Amber Martinelli, Allison Clifford, Paige Paskorz, Claire Welka and Courtney Bates. The good news is players like Breanna Lent, Sam Clutter, Rachel Pletz, Jocelyn White and Megan Thorton will be back and give Fedell a foundation to continue to grow the team.
The Lady Royals battled back from an 0-2 deficit to tie the game against Frazier in the opening round of the Class A playoffs, but Frazier was able to muster a run in the top of the fifth inning to provide the difference in the game.
Kim Corcoran pitched for the Lady Royals.
Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.