Astuto's perfect game sends Canon-McMillan back to title game
Not even Mother Nature could slow down Alayna Astuto in the WPIAL Class AAAA softball semifinals Thursday.
After retiring the first 18 Hempfield batters in order, a short weather delay put the game on hold in the sixth inning before the Canon-McMillan senior pitcher recorded the last three outs to put the finishing touches on her first career perfect game.
Fueled by Astuto's masterful seven-strikeout, 93-pitch performance, the top-seeded Big Macs (20-1) downed Hempfield, 5-0, at California (Pa.)'s Lilley Field.
“There's no words,” Astuto said. “No words to describe how I feel right now.”
“(She had) good control today like she normally does, especially with the delays and everything,” Canon-McMillan coach Michele Moeller said. “So excited for her. She throws a lot of different spots. There's not just one pitch the entire time. So she does tend to move it around.”
While the pressure often can mount on a pitcher in the midst of a perfect game, Astuto kept a basic approach on the mound.
“All I know is that other team is my obstacle in making it to the next round,” she said. “So you've got to tackle one round at a time.”
For Hempfield coach Bob Kalp, his team simply could not seem to figure out Astuto.
“She had everything,” Kalp said. “When you don't get a baserunner, it's hard to compete. … We just could never generate any offense to get anything going.”
Astuto received some early run support on third baseman Olivia Lorusso's two-out, two-RBI single in the first inning. That was followed by catcher Giorgiana Zeremenko's two-run single in the third inning to push the Canon-McMillan lead to 4-0 and put the game out of reach.
Offensively, the Big Macs were led by Zeremenko's two hits and three RBI and shortstop Linda Rush, who went 3 for 3 with two runs scored.
But Canon-McMillan also played strong defensively behind Astuto, helping to preserve her perfect game.
“Abby McCartney's catch out in right field after slipping, to come in and catch that (was big),” Moeller said. “I think Abby readjusting on that and coming in to make that catch was huge just to set the tone.”
The game marked a rematch of last season's Class AAAA championship game with a similar result. Canon-McMillan won, 4-1, last year.
While going through a season as the league's defending champion is never an easy task, the Big Macs find themselves back in the title game 7 p.m. May 30 against North Allegheny (17-4) at California (Pa.).
“All season long it's been kind of the same message, we put targets on our shirts because we know we're going to be the target the entire season,” Moeller said.
No. 4 seed Hempfield (17-5) will play Peters Township (18-5) in the consolation game at 4 p.m. Tuesday at California (Pa.), with the winner advancing to the PIAA tournament.
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.