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Connellsville softball team loses to Penn-Trafford in section opener

| Monday, March 24, 2014, 8:06 p.m.
Lori Padilla | For the Daily Courier
Connellsville's Kelsi Burkholder slides safely into third base as Penn-Trafford's Tori Lago awaits the throw during the first inning of a Section 1-AAAA game Monday, March 24, 2014, at Connellsville.

The Connellsville and Penn-Trafford softball teams braved the cold weather Monday and were able to get their seasons started with a Section 1-AAAA matchup.

Both teams struggled offensively, but the Warriors took advantage of some opportunities early in the game and posted a 4-0 victory over the host Falcons.

“It's nice to get the win, but we could have done a better job of hitting,” Penn-Trafford coach Monica Cox said. “Everyone has been in the same boat. The weather has been so (lousy). I was just happy that our game wasn't canceled, and I'm excited to get the win.”

Penn-Trafford pitcher Nicole Smith was dominant. She allowed one hit and struck out 11 to earn the complete-game victory.

“Nicole did great,” Cox said, noting that she didn't know what to expect from her pitcher considering this was the first game of the season. “She did what she was supposed to do, and defensively, we were strong.”

The Warriors (1-0, 1-0) didn't give up much, which meant their early offensive output was more than enough. In the first inning, Penn-Trafford took advantage of a couple of walks. Cassie Szymd lofted a popup that landed just on the edge of the grass for a two-run single. Then, in the second, Frankie Ponziani walked and scored on a single by Sarah Coscho.

Those early runs gave Smith plenty of breathing room. Her roughest inning was the first. She gave up a leadoff walk to Jackie Cramer, but Cramer was thrown out trying to steal second by catcher Jess Zarotta. With two outs, Kelsi Burkholder ripped a triple to right field to account for Connellsville's only hit. Burkholder was left stranded at third as Smith went on to retire 12 batters in a row, striking out the side in the second and fourth innings.

“We just didn't hit,” Connellsville first-year coach Vaughn Hempfield said. “I know it's early in the season, but we have to pick up the pace.”

After a couple of shaky innings to start the game, Connellsville pitcher Emily Keslar settled down and kept Penn-Trafford hitless and off the scoreboard in innings three through six. Keslar gave up five hits and had five strikeouts in seven innings.

“Emily held them down, but we didn't turn on the offense,” Hempfield said.

The Warriors added an insurance run in the seventh. Marrissa Bacco walked and scored on a single by Miranda Frye.

Despite the loss, Hempfield is confident the Falcons (0-1, 0-1) will improve.

“We'll be all right once the weather warms up,” Hempfield said. “We'll get it straightened out.”

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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