After 39 years, Plum softball earns 1st playoff win
Jordan Seneca said she did not want to go through another “embarrassing” loss in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA softball playoffs. Instead, it was Baldwin who left a bit red-faced after it opted to pitch to the Plum senior shortstop.
Seneca legged an otherwise long double into a triple with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, then scored on Melissa LeClair's sacrifice fly as Plum edged Baldwin, 4-3, on Tuesday at North Allegheny for the first playoff win in school history.
Finally, the No. 6-seeded Mustangs (16-3) are part of the postseason conversation. The program started in 1975.
“It's so exciting, so electric to be a part of our first playoff win for the senior class and for the organization,” said LeClair, who had two hits. “(Seneca) did all the running, so kudos to her. I'm slow. I can't run as fast as her.”
Seneca also hit a solo home run, singled and scored two other runs for Plum, which advances to play No. 3 Penn-Trafford (14-3) in the quarterfinals.
“Jordan and Melissa are our Crosby and Malkin,” Plum coach Jim McGrath said. “Jordan hits and flies around the bases, and Melissa hits those solid line drives.
“But the thing about this team is that everyone works together and nobody thinks they're better than the others.”
Seneca's 10th homer of the season, which clanked off the left-field bleachers, gave Plum a 3-1 lead over No. 11 Baldwin (11-7) in the fifth. The St. Francis recruit said she didn't think she got it all — the crowd would beg to differ. But it was her hit-and-sprint triple that set the table for the historic win.
“About three-fourths of the way (to second base), I decided I was going (to third),” Seneca said.
“I kept telling her to go,” said McGrath, who waved Seneca around from his perch at third. “With her speed, we were sending her.”
Baldwin senior first baseman Melissa Paterni made things interesting in the top of the seventh when she hit a soft single to center to score two runs and tie it 3-3.
The hit came after some unforced drama on Plum's end. Mallory O'Brien lasered a grounder to Plum second baseman Micaela Palmieri, who dove to make the brow-raising grab, but her throw to first wasn't in time to get O'Brien, and the Highlanders stayed close.
“I just kept telling the girls to keep playing and not get worried,” McGrath said. “They remained patient all the way.”
Plum's home-run hitter, sophomore Hannah Adamski, came to the plate with the bases loaded and Baldwin up 1-0 in the fourth. After a lengthy at-bat, Adamski walked to make it 1-1.
Then, first baseman Ashley Oravetz bunted to Baldwin sophomore pitcher Anatasia Hale, but her attempt at a force-out at home sailed to the backstop, allowing LeClair to score and give Plum a 2-1 lead with no outs.
Hale worked out of the jam. She struck out 12, including Seneca, who overcame that strikeout and a first-inning throwing error to have the best playoff game of her career.
“We wanted this win so badly,” Seneca said. “We knew we could make it happen.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.