Neshannock softball team claims Class A championship
Even though Carmichaels had yet to yield a run in May, the Neshannock Lancers were ready to do some serious work with their bats Thursday afternoon.
A 16-hit barrage led Neshannock to a 10-4 victory over Carmichaels in the WPIAL Class A softball championship game at California (Pa.)'s Lilley Field.
It was the first WPIAL softball title in the school's history.
Neshannock (17-3), which won the PIAA Class AA title last season, will face the District 9 runner-up in the opening round of the state playoffs Monday at a time and site to be determined.
The Lancers dropped to the Class A ranks during the biennial, off-season realignment.
Carmichaels (21-3) will open PIAA play against District 10 champion
Saegertown Monday at a time and site to be determined.
Two-run triples by winning pitcher Madison Shaffer and Marissa DeMatteo keyed a 6-run second inning to put Neshannock in the driver's seat early.
“Especially when we lost the coin toss and were the away team, we wanted to get a good jump on them early,” DeMatteo said.
Neshannock sent 10 batters to the plate in the second inning with three singles and a crucial error adding to the big Lancers inning.
“We just hit the ball hard for the most part,” Lancers coach Tracy Kimmel said. “It just came down to hitting the ball, especially in that big inning. Our kids had some pretty good swings.”
The third inning saw two more Neshannock runners cross the plate to make the score 8-0.
“Even in the innings where we put up some zeroes, we were hitting the ball hard but couldn't come up with that timely hit,” Kimmel said. “We had the ultimate respect for Carmichaels. They had been here before and they lost the finals here last year.”
Carmichaels finally got on the scoreboard with two runs each in the fifth and sixth innings.
Losing pitcher Erica Burns and second baseman Caroline Cree each doubled for the Mikes, but it was too much of a deficit to erase.
In the game's strangest play, Shaffer struck out Cree to apparently end the sixth. The ball rolled off catcher Marissa Kirkwood's chest protector out toward the pitcher's circle.
Hearing no call from the umpire, Cree ran to first and continued to second as Burns took third. After a walk to Morgan Berardi loaded the bases, Shaffer retired Regina Menhart on a comebacker to end the threat.
“We were getting used to her speed a little bit,” Carmichaels coach Dave Briggs said. “There aren't too many girls who throw that hard.”
Shaffer had 11 strikeouts for the Lancers.
The Mikes, looking to add to their back-to-back WPIAL titles from 1997 and '98, left nine runners stranded.
First baseman Alexandra Fischer reached base four times for Neshannock with a walk, a double and two singles.
George Guido is a freelance writer.