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Latrobe edges Seneca Valley to reach softball semifinals

Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Latrobe's Alexus Fearer (6) is congratulated by Lexie Zoppetti after scoring the winning run against Seneca Valley during a WPIAL Class AAAA playoff game Monday, May 19, 2014, at Fox Chapel.

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By Ed Phillipps
Monday, May 19, 2014, 10:27 p.m.

Shelby Noel has been Latrobe's power hitter in the middle of the lineup all year. But it was a check-swing that proved to be her most important contact of the season.

With two outs and two strikes against her in the bottom of the seventh inning, Noel's check-swing bouncer was fielded, but third baseman Jess Nell's errant throw allowed junior Alexus Fearer to score from second base and give the fifth-seeded Wildcats (15-3) a thrilling 3-2 WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal win over fourth-seeded Seneca Valley (12-3) at Fox Chapel.

Latrobe, which had blown a 2-0 lead after six innings, will face top-seeded Canon-McMillan in the semifinals Wednesday at a time and location to be determined.

“I went up to bat hoping to get the run in,” said Noel, a senior who hit .600 this season. “When I had two strikes, I just wanted to put the ball in play. I just kind of hoped for the best when I swung.”

It was a hectic ending with the Raiders' left side of the infield scrambling for the ball. But with two outs and the game on the line, Fearer had only one thing on her mind amid the chaos.

“Just score,” she said.

After being shut out and not showing much offensively for the first six innings, the Raiders came alive in the top of the seventh. Nikki Matz singled to left to score Elayna Nagy before Alyssa Panza's single scored Julia Zezinka to knot the score at 2-2.

“That's a character win,” Latrobe first-year coach Alexa Bryson said. “A lot of teams, I think, would have just folded and been done.”

The Wildcats got on the board early with a two-run first. Noel hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Fearer, then Ashley Perillo knocked in Noel for the other run.

Freshman Meredith Carr tossed a gem, striking out six without a walk. For the first six innings she had the Raiders befuddled with her mix of pitches.

“She did all that we asked of her,” said Bryson, who pitched the Wildcats to WPIAL titles in 2007 and 2008 as a player. “If you limit a team to two runs, you did a good job.”

Carr got some help from her defense, which did not commit an error.

“Pitching and defense wins games,” Bryson said. “It's wonderful to know that when there's a ground ball, it's almost a guaranteed out.”

Seneca Valley, on the other hand, committed four errors, including two throwing errors in the deciding seventh. Fearer reached base on catcher Sarah Blagg's throwing error to lead off the inning before being bunted to second by Lexie Zoppetti.

“They're going to make mistakes from time to time, and you just have to try and overcome them,” Raiders coach George Trew said. “Today we just came up one short.”

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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