South Allegheny softball has similar look of 2011 PIAA qualifier
They aren't quite Hal's Gals yet.
But Hal Minford's South Allegheny softball team could be heading down the path of the team of three years ago affectionately known as ‘Hal's Gals' that advanced to the WPIAL semifinals and qualified for the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
“Well, we have a long way before we can compare them,” Minford said.
But the similarities are eerie.
South Allegheny beat Riverview, 7-1, on Monday in a nonsection game to improve to 3-0 for the first time since the Hal's Gals team.
South Allegheny scored 47 runs through three games in 2011 and have scored 35 in three games this year.
The Gladiators start three seniors with a fourth seeing time — just like three years ago.
Minford has a workhorse underclassman pitcher, Brenna Pribanic, just like he had with Sarah Jacobs.
“Really, it is a different group,” Minford said. “It is just different. We played for the big fly with that group and look for three quick ones. With this group, we run a little more and try to put the ball in play.”
Some call it small ball, and Minford doesn't mind if that's what his team's identity is this year.
That was on display Monday when South Allegheny scored two runs in the first without a hit. An error on a grounder hit by Julia Giannandrea and two wild pitches sandwiched around a stolen base accounted SA's first run. A Spencer Lawson sacrifice fly added another.
After an RBI triple by Tiffany Naccarato in the third made it 3-0, South Allegheny took advantage of three sixth-inning errors by Riverview to score four more. Mikayla Stearns' single scored two, and run-scoring singles by Taylor Potts and Hannah Elder followed as the Gladiators led 7-0.
“I think you win championships with small ball,” Minford said. “You sit there and wait for the three-run bomb and that's what happened against Burrell (in the 2011 semifinals). We were waiting for that long ball and they have a dominant pitcher and that didn't happen. Now, we put the ball in play and make them field.”
Pribanic wasn't threatened until one out in the seventh. The sophomore lefty scattered five hits while striking out nine and not walking a batter.
If it wasn't for a fifth-inning error, Pribanic would've retired 12 consecutive batters into the final inning.
“She got in a groove late in the game when she started throwing the screwball,” Minford said.
“She started it down the middle and breaking it outside. We have been working on the rise ball to add to her repertoire.
“We have youth, but we have experience. It is still a young team, and that's exciting.”
Minford will get a good gauge on his team Tuesday when SA travels to Section 4-AA favorite Steel Valley.
“We always want to win the section and, realistically, if we get everybody back, everybody healthy and play our best softball, then we have a chance to do that,” Minford said.
That's something Hal's Gals did.