Young players step up for South Fayette in quarterfinal-round win
South Fayette teammates Sara Jubas and Emily Bryan could say confidently they've never had a WPIAL playoff game better than this.
Of course, it also was their first.
Nonetheless, the Nos. 1 and 2 batters in South Fayette's lineup combined for five hits, five runs and four RBIs in Monday afternoon's first-round victory over Ambridge, 8-3, in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
Their effort started in the first inning, when both singled and scored for a lead No. 2 South Fayette (14-1) never lost.
“We work together well as a team,” said Bryan, a sophomore third baseman who was 3 for 4 and hit a fourth-inning home run over the center-field fence at Fairhaven Park in Kennedy.
Jubas, a freshman catcher, was 2 for 3 with a two-run double.
“They're really good hitters,” said junior pitcher Ashley Iagnemma, who had three RBIs as South Fayette's No. 3 hitter. “They're focused on making solid contact and getting on base.”
Only Iagnemma and senior outfielder Taylor Coyne had playoff experience before Monday. They're also the only upperclassmen on South Fayette's roster. The Lions missed the playoffs last season but appear now as title contenders.
“We're all learning as we go,” Bryan said.
South Fayette, which has a nine-game winning streak, faces No. 7 Elizabeth Forward at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Baldwin.
“I'm very impressed with our team because we have a lot of young people,” Iagnemma said. “They're not playing at their (experience) level. They're playing up a level.”
Iagnemma allowed five hits, three walks and struck out nine.
The first-round loss was Ambridge's first since 2009. The No. 15 Bridgers (5-7) reached the WPIAL finals in three of the past four seasons. But much like South Fayette, this Ambridge roster was rather inexperienced.
“We had our chances,” Ambridge coach Jim Huwar said. “We made a couple mistakes early. In the playoffs, you can't make mistakes.”
Leading 2-1, South Fayette scored four runs in the second inning when Bryan and Jubas reached base for the second time and scored. Alex Kopec walked, Coyne singled and Jubas doubled to score both. Jubas scored on Bryan's single.
“(Jubas) is absolutely a threat,” second-year South Fayette coach Vic Iagnemma said, “and (Bryan) always gets the bat on the ball.”
Bailey Kormick drove in Bryan for a 6-1 lead. The offensive outburst was a confidence boost for the Lions.
“When they started scoring some runs, that really settled their nerves,” Vic Iagnemma said.
Ambridge replaced starter Kelly Haslett in the second. Brooklyn Kotula pitch the final six innings.
South Fayette added runs in the fourth inning by Bryan and the sixth by Tea Leone.
“When you get the ball up a little bit,” Huwar said, “they smack the ball down your throat.”
Ambridge scored one run in the first inning by Heather Mueller, fifth by Kotula and sixth by Kasi Deane.