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Jeannette tops Leechburg in early-season section battle

| Friday, March 28, 2014, 11:30 p.m.

The race between Leechburg and Jeannette softball was neck-and-neck last year, and it seems as though this year will be no different.

Nicole Hall allowed one run and struck out nine for the Jayhawks, who took the early lead in Section 3-A by getting a 3-1 win Friday at Leechburg-Gilpin Community Park.

Lindsey Rowe was just as good in the circle for the Blue Devils (1-1, 1-1) by striking out eight, but three unearned runs allowed in the third inning and missed opportunities at the plate led to Leechburg dropping its third straight to Jeannette (2-1, 2-0).

“This is the second year in a row we've come out here at the beginning of the year, and we knew this was going to be the toughest game in our section,” Jeannette coach Zac Karas said. “Nicole pitched well today, and I'm expecting big things from her for her senior year. We played great defense today, and to get one against them is big for us.”

Both teams did a good job hitting the ball — Jeannette had an 11-10 edge in hits — but both pitchers repeatedly were able to get big outs when they needed them.

The Jayhawks got on the board after Mary Paulone led off the third inning with a double and later scored on a throwing error. That error allowed Brianna Crawford and Monique Redman to come to the plate with two outs instead of the inning being over, and they belted out back-to-back RBI hits to take a 3-0 lead.

“There's no doubt in my mind that we will (eliminate errors),” Leechburg coach Jim Oberdorf said.

“Brooke (Blumer), the girl at third, she's a freshman, and I thought she did extremely well. Lexie Young at second is only a freshman. The right fielder (Kasey Klapheke) is a freshman, so I'm very happy with what we're doing right now.”

Rowe came up with a strikeout to escape a bases-loaded jam in the top half of the fourth before Leechburg got on the board in the bottom half. Marissa George hit at RBI single that scored Blumer, but despite the run, the fourth was a missed chance.

Miranda Reesman doubled, and Blumer's single advanced her to third with one out in the fourth. Kassidi Horrell followed up with a ground ball hit to the left side, but Reesman hesitated before breaking for home. That pause allowed the Jayhawks to throw home, where Redman made the tag for the second out.

“If she would've broken for home immediately, she would've scored, and we'd have had runners on first and second with one out,” Oberdorf said. “We could've had three runs in that inning, and who knows what would've happened after that?”

Leechburg had chances to tie the game in the final two innings. Rowe and Blumer singled in the sixth inning, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch before being stranded.

In the final inning, Monica Emricko led off with a single, advanced to second on a fielder's choice and moved to third on a single by Klapheke, who also moved to second on the throw to third. Rowe then hit a ball sharply to short, but Jeannette shortstop Sarah Pitzer fielded it cleanly and threw to first for the final out.

“Both teams played really well, but I'm proud of our girls for holding on at the end. (Leechburg) got back down to the middle of their lineup, but our girls made the plays to get the outs at the end,” Karas said.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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