Frazier ready for tough test in Neshannock
When the Frazier softball team defeated Shenango in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals on Monday, the Commodores were in a celebratory mood as they advanced to the semifinals after three straight seasons of quarterfinal misery.
After the game, Frazier coach Paul Harvey noted it was his team's best performance of the season, but the Commodores will have to be even better Wednesday when they battle top-seeded Neshannock at 3 p.m. at North Allegheny High School.
“They have a really good team,” Harvey said of the Lancers. “Their pitcher throws hard and I believe they have a lot of left-handed hitters in their lineup, so that's always difficult because you don't know if they're slapping or hitting away.”
Neshannock (16-2) is a powerful team. The Lancers won the PIAA Class AA title last year, and the move down to Class A certainly doesn't seem to have hurt them in any way. Of Neshannock's 16 wins this season, 13 have been by 10 or more runs, including a 14-0 drubbing of Serra Catholic in Monday's quarterfinals.
“We just have continued with the way we have played,” Neshannock coach Tracy Kimmel said. “I have a lot of kids returning from last year's team. Eight of my nine starters are back, and they know how to play the game.”
The Lancers are led sophomore pitcher Madison Shaffer, who has all of Neshannock's 16 wins. In 71 innings, she has recorded 140 strikeouts, which is almost two strikeouts per inning.
Neshannock is scoring at a clip of nearly 13 runs per game. Senior center fielder Rayanna Furst and senior shortstop Jamie Graziani are each hitting better than .600.
Beating the Lancers won't be an easy task for the fourth-seeded Commodores (18-2), but Harvey is hoping his team can build on a 9-2 quarterfinal win over Shenango. As the games get bigger, the Commodores will look to stick with their tried-and-true approach to winning softball games.
“They'll be some butterflies,” Harvey acknowledged. “They know what's at stake. If you win, you go to the championship. If we get good pitching and play defense and scratch out some runs, we have a chance.”
Senior pitcher Andrea Lash leads the Commodores. Through 20 games, she has racked up 113 strikeouts. Meanwhile, players like senior shortstop Alexis Livingstone and sophomore designated player Paige Hotz continue to produce in a lineup filled with strong hitters from top to bottom. Livingstone and Hotz each drove in three runs in Frazier's quarterfinal win.
If the semifinal game is close, it could benefit the Commodores considering the Wildcats have steamrolled a vast majority of their opponents this season. But if it is tight, don't expect the Lancers to fold under pressure.
“They have a pretty good mentality,” Kimmel said. “They take everything in stride. They don't get rattled.”
The Commodores don't expect to be rattled either.
“We're going to show up,” Harvey said. “We're not going to forfeit.”
The winner of Wednesday's game will play in the WPIAL Class A championship game May 30 at California (Pa.) University. The loser will play in the consolation final Tuesday at a site to be determined. The top three finishers in the Class A bracket move on to the PIAA tournament, beginning June 3.
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.