Neshannock shut out in PIAA Class A softball final
UNIVERSITY PARK — Neshannock softball coach Tracy Kimmel had a pretty simple explanation for his team's 13-0 loss against District 11 champion Williams Valley in the PIAA Class A championship game Friday at Penn State's Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park.
“The better team won today,” Kimmel said. “There's no question about it.”
In a game shortened to six innings by the 10-run mercy rule, the WPIAL champion Lancers (21-3) got the worst of it in the field where pitchers Madison Shaffer and Cassidy Burrelli yielded nine hits and 10 walks, six of which drove in Vikings runs with the bases loaded.
Shaffer, who threw two no-hitters and a perfect game earlier this season, managed to throw three scoreless frames to start the game but walked in two runs and gave up an RBI single in the fourth.
The rout was on from there, and Shaffer was especially disappointed with her control.
“It was off, definitely,” Shaffer said. “I wasn't happy with my performance.”
Offensively, the Lancers were stymied by Vikings pitcher Cassidy Pinchorski.
The junior held Neshannock hitless until the fifth inning and allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out two in a shutout.
The Lancers entered the game with five batters hitting .500 or better, but Williams Valley coach Lee Reiser said Pinchorski's changeup kept them off balance for most of the day and thought her curveball was working well, too.
He also said pitching with a lead from the fourth inning helped her effectiveness.
But Kimmel said the pressure on his players after falling behind in the fourth might have gotten to them as well.
“When you get down three runs in a game like this, the pressure's going to start to mount,” Kimmel said. “The bats tighten up. That's just a fact.”
And while the coach didn't think the big stage of a state title game affected his squad — eight starters returned from last season's PIAA Class AA championship team — he hoped the loss would be a good learning experience for Shaffer, a sophomore pitching in her first such contest.
That, however, was little consolation for Shaffer, who played primarily third base on last year's team.
She said there were a lot of similarities in the preparation from the 2012 title-game victory and this year's runner-up finish.
The Lancers defeated Warrior Run, 4-3, last season to claim the PIAA Class AA title and were trying to win a state crown in two different classifications in consecutive seasons after dropping to Class A in the previous offseason.
“We felt ready for both,” Shaffer said.
In the end, though, the preparation didn't translate as the Williams Valley players walked off the field with its first PIAA title.
And a year after his team did the same thing, Kimmel tried to take the loss in stride, saying he was happy for his players to advance as far as they did.
“It was their day,” Kimmel said. “That's all you can say.”
Adam Bittner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.