Lorusso's home run leads Canon-McMillan past Hempfield
One swing of the bat powered Canon-McMillan to a 2-1 victory over Hempfield on Monday in a first-round PIAA Class AAAA softball game.
Olivia Lorusso hit a towering two-run home run over the left field fence in the fourth inning, and righthander Alayna Astuto survived several Hempfield scoring threats to earn the victory for the Big Macs (22-1), whose only loss was a regular-season decision at Hempfield on April 5.
“Since then, we've come out in games knowing to play hard for seven innings,” Lorusso said. “One swing of the bat really can change a game. We were beating them, 6-0, in that game, and then, all of a sudden, they scored four runs, and they just kept scoring.”
Hempfield (18-7) went on to a 17-6 rout of Canon-McMillan in the early-season showdown that saw both teams rest their main pitchers.
Canon-McMillan, which advances to the PIAA quarterfinals Thursday against North Allegheny. Canon-McMillan defeated Hempfield, 5-0, in a WPIAL semifinals game on May 23 at California (Pa.) University.
“We know each other well,” Canon-McMillan coach Michele Moeller said. “This was a great game for us to come away with. You have to win tight games like this if you're going to keep going. We talked to the girls before the game about how one swing of the bat could make a difference.”
On Monday, it did — and Astuto made it stand, besting Hempfield righthander Hope Pehrson, who hadn't allowed a hit until Lorusso came through with her two-out homer in the fourth after Linda Rush had reached on shortstop Justyne Falbo's fielding error.
Hempfield outhit Canon-McMillan, 6-4, but the Spartans committed three errors and stranded seven runners, including three in the fourth inning and one in the seventh after they scored their only run on an RBI double by Alaina Montgomery.
“We swung at some pitches up around our eyes,” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said of the Spartans' fourth-inning uprising that saw them load the bases on Rush's fielding error, a single by Maddy Knizner and a walk to Michaela Lebonne before Astuto induced Kelly Mahoney to pop out to third to end the threat.
After Taylor Bartlow singled in the seventh and scored Hempfield's lone run on Montgomery's double, Montgomery advanced to third on a late throw to home plate. But Astuto got Kelsie Hendrick to pop out to deep short, where Rush made a running catch, to end the game.
“Two more feet,” Kalp said, “and it would've been tied there. When it's all said-and-done, there's not too many teams who played 25 games this season. Unfortunately, we ran into a very good Canon-McMillan team in the first round.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.