Canon-McMillan shuts out North Allegheny in PIAA quarterfinals

| Friday, June 7, 2013, 7:42 p.m.

Canon-McMillan has powered its way to a second consecutive PIAA Class AAAA semifinal berth.

Two home runs and three other extra-base hits propelled the WPIAL champion Big Macs to a 5-0 victory over North Allegheny in a state quarterfinal contest at Woodland Hills. Freshman Kirsten Rugh and sophomore Abby McCartney each blasted home runs while Rugh added a double and Giorgiana Zeremenko had a pair of two-base hits to pace the Big Macs attack.

Canon-McMillan (23-1) will face Pennsbury in the semifinals at 4 p.m. Monday at Carlisle High School.

North Allegheny, also the WPIAL runner-up to the Big Macs, concluded its season at 18-6.

Yaszmin Kotar, the game's first batter, laced a triple to deep right field and scored on a sacrifice fly by Maddie Engel. Zeremenko opened the second inning with a walk and was sacrificed to second by Tara Fowler. That set the stage for Rush's blast over the right-field fence.

“I was surprised,” Rugh said of her home run. “I was actually just trying to put it in play, really. It was an outside pitch, and I was thinking to step through it and swing all the way.”

“Kirsten had been struggling in the playoffs so this was a great breakout day for her,” Canon-McMillan coach Michele Moeller said. “She had been batting great for us in the regular season, and this could be attributed to youth. This is the first time in the playoffs and she was pressing a bit. She was a little more patient today.”

North Allegheny had a chance to tie the game — and then some — in the first.

Consecutive one-out singles by Logan Woodley, Christine Scherer and Bonnie Pierson loaded the bases for the Tigers.

But Big Macs pitcher Alayna Astuto got Mary Funderlich to hit a pop up to third where the infield fly rule was applied, and Casey Ginocchi struck out to end the threat.

“We had a good opportunity in the first inning, but we didn't cash in,” North Allegheny coach Rick Meister said. “Not saying that was the whole ball game, they responded well and kept pounding the ball, and we just didn't get an offense going today.”

“It was huge to get out of that first inning jam and take that momentum away,” Moeller added.

The Big Macs added on as Rugh doubled to open the sixth and was bunted to third by Allison Bellaire. Rugh scored on Kotar's sacrifice fly.

McCartney opened the seventh by pounding a pitch over the 210-foot mark in center field to conclude the scoring.

Meanwhile, after the three Tigers singles in the first, Astuto retired 15 of the next 16 North Allegheny batters until Scherer hit a one-out single in the sixth.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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