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Top-ranked Canon-McMillan softball has gone on major homer binge

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 10:36 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan's Olivia Lorusso hits a home run against Upper St. Clair during a game Saturday, May 3, 2014, in North Strabane.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan pitcher Tara Fowler delivers to the plate against Upper St. Clair during a game Saturday, May 3, 2014, in North Strabane.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan's Taylor Bruno connects on a bases-clearing triple against Upper St. Clair during a game Saturday, May 3, 2014, in North Strabane.

A fundraiser might be in order for the Canon-McMillan softball team to replace all the home plates it has dented this season.

When one of the Big Macs goes deep, program tradition says that player rounds third then jumps onto home as her teammates mob her and scream, “Ka-BOOM.”

Canon-McMillan has made plenty of noise this season with its bats, mouths and feet.

Entering Wednesday's makeup game at Peters Township, the defending WPIAL (2012, '13) and PIAA Class AAAA champs had clubbed a ridiculous 49 home runs.

That's more than three times as many as anyone else in the state, according to MaxPreps.com.

“On our team, there's this competitiveness where we want to outhit each other,” said senior third baseman Olivia Lorusso, who has a state-best 15 homers. “We love when our teammates hit home runs, but we're also keeping tallies of our own.”

Top-ranked Canon-McMillan (15-3, 11-2 Section 4-AAAA) scored 200 runs in its first 18 contests prior to Wednesday, an average of 11.1 per game.

Besides Lorusso, who ranks second in the state with 39 RBIs, junior outfielder Abby McCartney was second in home runs with 11 prior to Wednesday's game and third in RBIs with 38.

Both are Robert Morris recruits.

“I didn't expect to go out this season and have a team total of 49 home runs, but I did expect to have a great hitting season with these girls because everybody's bats have been on,” McCartney said. “We have a strong lineup again this year.”

McCartney said a big part of the power surge has been maturity. When McCartney was a freshman, she said she worried about her hands, dipping her shoulder and striding correctly.

Now, she's focused on getting her pitch — and usually crushing it a couple hundred feet.

“I'm trying to look for my pitch and focus on my own zone, wait for that right pitch,” McCartney said.

“(Opposing pitchers) try to pitch us outside or they try to jam us inside. But we adjust. We take a step back and swing through it.”

The performances of Lorusso and McCartney haven't surprised head coach Michele Moeller. Same for sophomore shortstop Linda Rush, who has nine homers and ranks third, or Pitt-bound catcher Giorgiana Zeremenko, who has five.

She has come to expect such things out of those four.

What has surprised Moeller has been senior second baseman Ally Bellaire and freshman first baseman Brittany Crawford each sending four balls over the fence.

“Every field we've been at, we've been hitting home runs,” Moeller said. “But a lot of teams around here have great hitters; it's not just us. These girls are strong.”

Moeller, who's about as well-respected a voice as Western Pennsylvania has when it comes to softball, said much of the uptick has been the result of moving the pitching circle back 3 feet a few years ago.

The bigger reason, though has been the maturity shown by hitters such as Lorusso and McCartney.

And although the Big Macs suffered two huge losses from last year with the graduation of center fielder Yaszmin Kotar and first baseman Maddie Engel, the homers have helped make up for the 39 errors Canon-McMillan has committed thus far.

“We're seeing the ball a lot better this year,” Lorusso said. “We had a couple girls mature in their hitting from last year. I think that has helped. I would say there's a little bit more power in this year's lineup.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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