Canon-McMillan wins PIAA Class AAAA softball title in 12 innings
UNIVERSITY PARK — Canon-McMillan's Alayna Astuto was nearly exhausted, but not too tired to celebrate.
“It just kept going on and on and on,” said Astuto, who carried a no-hitter into the 10th and stayed strong for all 12 innings of Friday afternoon's 4-3 victory over Neshaminy in the PIAA Class AAAA championship at Beard Field.
A two-run homer in the top of the 12th by freshman Linda Rush earned WPIAL champion Canon-McMillan the state title and helped end one of the longest championship games in PIAA softball history.
“My heart dropped,” said Astuto, who watched the ball clear the left-field fence. “I thought, please go over.”
It did, and soon the Big Macs were using whatever strength they had left to celebrate an emotionally draining victory.
“Not fun,” Rush said with a laugh, describing the extra-inning experience. “It was hot and stressful.”
The PIAA title was the first for Canon-McMillan (25-1), which won the past two WPIAL titles.
District 1 runner-up Neshaminy (23-3) was trying to add to the PIAA title it won in 2002 with a nine-inning, 1-0 victory over North Allegheny.
Neshaminy's Lauren Quense, who struck out 10, entered the 12th pitching a three-hitter.
Without Astuto, there likely would not have been a 12th inning. The Big Macs senior struck out 18 batters, including two of the final three outs in the bottom of the 12th. Astuto didn't allow a hit until Neshaminy's Jen Walker singled with one out in the 10th.
“Everybody keeps saying Alayna doesn't have overpowering speed, but she's not slow,” Canon-McMillan coach Michele Moeller said. “She knows where to put the ball. She knows how to spin the ball. She knows how to move the ball. I'm so proud of her senior leadership.”
Scoreless after nine innings, the international tiebreaker rule was implemented. The rule places a runner on second base to begin each inning.
Both teams scored one run in the 10th and 11th.
Canon-McMillan's Olivia Lorusso, who started the 10th at second, moved to third on a flyball and scored on Tara Fowler's groundout to shortstop.
A single by Neshaminy's Walker advanced runner Erica Mohan to third. A single to left field by Selina Alicea scored Mohan with the tying run.
In the 11th, a sacrifice bunt by Canon-McMillan's Ally Bellaire and a sacrifice fly by teammate Yaszmin Kotar combined to score Taylor Bruno.
A double by Neshaminy's Lauren Quense scored Mackensie Compton to force another tie.
In the 12th, with Maddie Engel on second, Rush's leadoff homer gave Canon-McMillan a 4-2 lead. Neshaminy's Sarah Snider-Leonhauser scored in the bottom of the 12th on Walker's double. But a strikeout and game-ending popout forced by Astuto stranded Walker, the potential tying run, at second.
This was the longest Class AAAA championship. A year ago, Central Bucks South won the Class AAAA title in nine innings over Bishop Shanahan, 1-0.
Fleetwood's victory over Riverside in the 2001 Class AA championship lasted 14 innings.
“I could have went a couple more (innings), definitely,” Astuto said with a laugh. “It would have been hard. Walking tomorrow might have been a little bit hard.”