Shaler downs Penn-Trafford to reach WPIAL Class AAAA finals
Shaler softball coach Skip Palmer already is anticipating what his young roster can accomplish next season.
The Titans still have plenty to look forward to this season, too.
Sophomore Brianna Dobson stranded nine Penn-Trafford baserunners, pitching No. 2 Shaler (16-3) to a 4-1 victory in the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals Thursday at Fox Chapel.
The Titans will face Canon-McMillan on Thursday at Cal (Pa.).
“We're really young,” Palmer said. “But the experience coaching-wise, and how we prepare them, it's really helped. They kind of feed off us. If we look nervous, they get nervous. So we know how to handle that, but these girls are very good. They're very competitive. They work extremely hard every day, and it pays off.”
Playing in its sixth WPIAL semifinal game in the past seven seasons, Shaler never trailed and advanced to the championship game for the first time since 2010.
No. 3 Penn-Trafford (15-4) had eight hits, but the Warriors stranded nine baserunners — including five in scoring position — and scored only on Hannah Dobrinick's solo home run in the top of the second inning.
“I think (they were) more hesitant in how they approached things,” Penn-Trafford coach Monica Cox said. “As years go on, I assume we'll be here again and again. I would like to be here. I think they'll start coming around. When you're nervous, it's OK. But it's not OK to be hesitant, and we were very nervous and hesitant.”
Shaler opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. Leadoff hitter Jacey Schott reached base when her fly ball popped out of second baseman Meghan Marasti's glove, and she eventually scored on Dobson's groundout to third base.
After Penn-Trafford tied the score on Dobrinick's blast over the wall in right-center field in the second, Shaler regained the lead on Lauren Miller's run-scoring single in the third.
That proved to be enough for Dobson. She allowed baserunners in every inning but the seventh, but she stranded them every time. Penn-Trafford loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, but Dobson induced an inning-ending groundout by Cassie Szmyd.
“Penn-Trafford's a very good team,” Palmer said. “We knew we were going to have our hands full with them. But we've been there before — we've won some 1-0 games, some 2-1 (games). Bri's been under fire, and she's done very well. I have all the confidence in the world, and she's only a sophomore.”
The Titans scored their final runs in the sixth. Miller, who walked, scored when Amanda Sartori's deep fly ball to center field went in and out of Marissa Bacco's glove with two outs. Sartori scored on Lyndsey Lakatos' double.
Penn-Trafford will play Latrobe in the Class AAAA consolation game Tuesday at a site and time to be determined, with a berth in the PIAA playoffs on the line.