Hot-hitting Canon-McMillan relies on defense in quarterfinal-round win
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Considering the Canon-McMillan softball team hit 49 home runs over its first 19 games of the season, the Big Macs haven't played many tight, low-scoring games.
Still, that didn't stop the top seed in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs from winning a defensive battle with a 3-1 victory over No. 9 North Allegheny in a quarterfinal matchup at Baldwin on Monday afternoon.
“It was definitely more difficult — tighter. But we pulled through,” sophomore shortstop Linda Rush said. “As long as we win. A win is a win, you know? Doesn't matter the score.”
Winning happens frequently for Canon-McMillan, the defending PIAA Class AAAA champion.
Last year, the Big Macs relied heavily on pitcher Alayna Astuto in the playoffs. The year's group prefers to put the ball over the fence, scoring 212 runs during the regular season, an average of 11.2.
Canon-McMillan had scored at least six runs in all 16 of its wins.
“We've not been in many games like that where it's low-scoring and we have to dig it out with defense and pitching,” Big Macs coach Michele Moeller said. “I'm real proud of them for that.”
Canon-McMillan (17-3) advanced to Wednesday's semifinal round and will play No. 5 Latrobe, time and site to be determined. North Allegheny (16-5) saw its season come to a close a year after reaching the WPIAL final.
Rush had the big hit in this one: a double that sailed over North Allegheny right fielder Anna Sardon's head during a three-run third for Canon-McMillan.
Sophomore designated player Jada Kemp drove in Canon-McMillan's other run with a bunt single.
North Allegheny stranded seven runners over the final four innings and went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
“We thought we played at their level (Monday),” North Allegheny coach Rick Meister said. “We just did not hit the ball in crucial situations.”
Pitcher Tara Fowler got the win for Canon-McMillan. She went all seven innings, allowing eight hits and a walk.
Her counterpart, Madi Beining, was outstanding for North Allegheny, limiting Canon-McMillan's Division I trio of Abby McCartney, Olivia Lorusso and Giorgiana Zeremenko to two hits.
Catcher Casey Ginocchi led North Allegheny with three hits.
Canon-Mac's key players found other ways to contribute, as McCartney made inning-ending catches in center in the fourth and sixth. Lorusso fielded a bunt and fired to second for an out in the second, then ended the game by snaring a liner.
The strong fielding was especially notable because Canon-McMillan's Achilles' heel this season, despite the prolific hitting, has been errors — 41 of them during the regular season.
Sure didn't look like it Monday, though, as Canon-McMillan played its first game in 11 days.
“It's huge for us to play a defensive battle and pitching battle,” Moeller said. “That's been our weakness early on in the year, and we know that. They work hard at it. They're great ballplayers.”
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