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Top-seeded Neshannock tops Frazier in semifinals

| Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 7:36 p.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Neshannock's Rayanna Furst slides under the tag from Frazier's Brittany Strothers during the WPIAL Class A semifinals Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at North Allegheny.

The Neshannock softball team continued to show why it is the top-seeded team in the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

The Lancers spotted a run to fourth-seeded Frazier then rattled off the next nine runs in a convincing 9-1 win over the Commodores in the WPIAL Class A semifinals on Wednesday at North Allegheny. With the win, Neshannock advances to the May 30 title game and will play Carmichaels at California (Pa.).

Frazier will battle Burgettstown in the consolation final Tuesday at a time and site to be determined. The winner advances to the PIAA tournament beginning June 3.

“We'll look forward to the consolation game and come back strong in that one,” Frazier coach Paul Harvey said after his team had its eight-game winning streak snapped.

Frazier's loss wasn't due to poor play but rather a dominating performance by the Neshannock hitters and pitcher Madison Shaffer.

The Lancers pounded out 11 hits, and Shaffer tossed a complete-game three-hitter that included 12 strikeouts.

“This is one of the better games she has pitched, and that's what we're looking for this time of year,” Neshannock coach Tracy Kimmel said. “She's doing a great job.”

Despite Shaffer's strong efforts, it was the Commodores who grabbed the early advantage. In the first inning, Monica Joseph led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Alexus Eicher. An error allowed Joseph to move to third and she scored on a wild pitch to give the Commodores (18-3) a 1-0 lead.

But after that, it was all Neshannock.

In the bottom of the first, the Lancers (17-2) responded with four runs on five hits. With one out, Jamie Graziani and Marissa DeMatteo each doubled and scored. Madison Altmyer singled before Katelyn Burrelli delivered a two-run triple. Alexandra Fischer capped the inning with a RBI single to make it 4-1.

“That's what we like to do,” Kimmel said. “We like to get the jump and make teams chase us. It puts a lot of pressure on other teams in the playoffs.”

The first inning likely was the turning point in the game. After Joseph's single in the first, the only other Frazier hits were a pair of singles by Kelsey Holp.

“They put up the four runs, and that was real big,” Harvey said. “If they don't score there, anything can happen. We just couldn't get anything going with the bats.”

The Lancers' three-run lead stood until the fifth inning when they tacked on three more runs.

DeMatteo provided the big hit, a two-run triple, to help Neshannock extend its advantage. In the sixth, Rayanna Furst smacked a two-run homer to center to complete the scoring.

“They ripped the ball to the gaps,” Harvey said. “It's not the pitcher's fault or the defense's fault. They just hit the ball.”

Neshannock lost in the WPIAL semifinals in Class AA last year at North Allegheny before eventually winning a state championship.

Kimmel was happy to get a win at the field where his team lost out on a chance to win a WPIAL title last year.

“We stubbed our toe at this field in this same round last year, so we're happy to get that taken care of this year,” Kimmel said.

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at jblack@tribweb.com.

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