Montour wins WPISL championship
Montour's Breanna Dodd was having a rough day in the field Sunday during the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Softball League slow-pitch championship against Bethel Park.
First, the senior shortstop was roughed up when she went diving after a fly ball to shallow left-center. She stayed in the game, but in the bottom of the ninth she let a ground ball through her legs that jump-started a six-run inning for Bethel Park.
But just when the Black Hawks got within striking distance, it was Dodd who cleanly fielded a hard bouncer and flipped it to second base for the final out in Montour's 16-14 WPISL championship victory at Blueberry Park in Franklin Park.
“It felt great, just awesome,” Dodd said. “That was stressful, but we stuck together and kept our heads up.”
Fourth seed Montour (15-3) and third seed Bethel Park (15-3) lit up the scoreboard through the first four innings. The Spartans held a 16-8 advantage through four. Neither team plated another run until the Black Hawks' surge in their final at-bat. When Kayleigh Poe drilled a three-run homer to make it 16-11 and the Black Hawks continued to pound the ball after, it looked as if a comeback was in the works.
“I am so proud of these girls,” Bethel Park coach George Fiorentini said. “They played their hearts out until the end.”
It was an underused tactic that helped Montour finalize the win. Since the average pitch only travels about 9 mph, according to WPISL President Ed Vesely, the game of slow pitch is driven by offense. But a pitching change in the last inning to bring in Katie Skwarcha helped Montour. Despite the slow speeds, Spartans coach Brian Cronin noted there are other nuances to pitching styles.
“You don't switch pitchers too often in slow pitch, but we had to do that to close them out,” Cronin said. “Katie has a little bit different arc so we decided to bring her in.”
Cronin made the right move, as the Black Hawks were held scoreless after the change.
Montour was led by Megan McNally, who went 4 for 4 and scored three runs. Skwarcha went 3 for 4 and Jada Moyer 2 for 5 with a double and a triple.
Bethel Park's Jamie Cavrak was 4 for 4 with two runs scored, Poe had two hits and Jordan Porzio added a double and triple.
Montour defeated Hampton, West Mifflin, North Allegheny and Bethel Park en route to the title. The Black Hawks advanced with wins over Baldwin, Peters Township and North Hills.
The WPISL completed its ninth season Sunday. The 15-team league, which requires players from each team reside within the school district of the team they play for, is pushing for recognition from the WPIAL and PIAA.
Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.