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Canon-McMillan defends Class WPIAL AAAA title

| Thursday, May 30, 2013, 8:42 p.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan's Maddie Engel (left) and Yaszmin Kotar celebrate after their victory over North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAAA softball championship game Thursday, May 30, 2013, at California (Pa.) University's Lilley Field.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan's Maddie Engel (right) celebrates on the way back to the dugout with Giorgiana Zeremenko after Zeremenko's three-run home run versus North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAAA softball championship game Thursday, May 30, 2013, at California (Pa.) University's Lilley Field in California.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan players mob center fielder Yaszmin Kotar after the final out of their victory over North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAAA softball championship game Thursday, May 30, 2013, at California (Pa.) University's Lilley Field in California.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan's Abby McCarney slides in to make a catch and attempts to avoid a collision with Alison Bellaire during thier contest versus North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAAA softball championship game Thursday, May 30, 2013, at California (Pa.) University's Lilley Field in California.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan players reach for the trophy after defeating North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAAA softball championship game Thursday, May 30, 2013, at California (Pa.) University's Lilley Field in California.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan pitcher Alayna Astuto delivers a pitch versus North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAAA softball championship game Thursday, May 30, 2013, at California (Pa.) University's Lilley Field in California.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan base runner Olivia Lorusso dives back after overshooting second base as North Allegheny infielder Christine Scherer looks to put a tag on her during the WPIAL Class AAAA softball championship game Thursday, May 30, 2013, at California (Pa.) University's Lilley Field in California.

The three-run blast has become Canon-McMillan's favorite title-game tradition.

Big Macs catcher Giorgiana Zeremenko cleared the left-field fence with a go-ahead home run in Thursday night's 5-2 victory over No. 3 seed North Allegheny (17-5) in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship at California (Pa.) University's Lilley Field.

Zeremenko's shot was reminiscent of the game-changing three-run, fourth-inning blast teammate Olivia Lorusso hit in last year's championship victory. The two blasts allowed Canon-McMillan (21-1) to become the first team to repeat as Class AAAA champion since Latrobe won successive titles in 2007-08.

“It's that same awesome feeling again,” Zeremenko said.

A 4-1 victory over Hempfield a season ago gave surprising Canon-McMillan its first WPIAL title. This title was no surprise.

“Definitely a different road, a different feeling all through the year,” Canon-McMillan coach Michele Moeller said. “Coming up last year we weren't really expected to win.”

Canon-McMillan senior Alayna Astuto pitched a four-hitter with seven strikeouts and no walks to earn her second gold. Astuto allowed one run in the first and another in the sixth, when North Allegheny's game-changing blast fell just short.

Trailing 5-1 with no outs in the sixth, NA loaded the bases with an error and two singles. Yet, the Tigers scored just one run. Bonnie Pierson's long fly to deep left scored Laura Cotter, but was caught short of the grand slam the Tigers wanted.

“We missed by a couple of feet,” NA coach Rick Meister said. “The one that went out for Canon-McMillan deserved to be a home run, but it was close. I think the distance of those two balls was reflective of this game, that's how close these two teams are.”

NA junior Sami Beining allowed eight hits and five runs, striking out three and walking one.

A first-inning leadoff double by Cotter led to NA's first run and a 1-0 lead. A single by Christine Scherer scored Cotter, who had stolen third base.

Zeremenko put the Big Macs ahead, 3-1. Her three-run homer scored Abby McCartney and Lorusso, who predicted the blast just moments earlier while standing on first base.

“I turned to (Moeller) and said: ‘G's got this,' ” said Lorusso, who had been hit by a pitch. “All of a sudden she rocketed one over. Something told me she was due.”

Arm fatigue had cost Zeremenko much of her season, having returned just a couple weeks before the playoffs. The team's No. 4 batter, who had few home runs this season, had just recently regained her power.

“It felt good,” she said. “It's not about the quantity but the quality of when it happens.”

Canon-McMillan added two runs in the sixth with a run-scoring triple by Abby McCartney and an RBI single by Zeremenko.

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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