Scotties fall as top-seeded Belle Vernon notches walk-off win
Taking down two higher seeds in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs is something the members of the Southmoreland softball team can be proud of this season.
However, the Scotties can be equally proud that, despite playing shorthanded, they went toe-to-toe with top-seeded Belle Vernon, only to see the Leopards rally from a two-run deficit and pull out a thrilling 3-2 victory in a semifinal May 21 at California University of Pennsylvania.
Bailey Parshall, who turned in a 10-strikeout performance, won the game with her bat as she singled in the bottom of the seventh to drive in Megan Christner with the winning run as the Leopards advanced to the WPIAL title game against Yough on Thursday, also at California University of Pennsylvania.
For Southmoreland, it was a tough way to lose, especially considering the Scotties played without one of their top players in Briana Bunner, who suffered an ankle injury in the May 19 quarterfinal victory over Hampton.
“We came focused, and we've done that all throughout the playoffs,” Southmoreland coach Todd Bunner said. “They knew Briana wasn't going to play, but they stepped up and hit the ball.”
Southmoreland managed five hits against the hard-throwing Penn State recruit Parshall, and two of those hits came in the second inning as Kristen Suhan singled, moved to second on a passed ball and scored when Makenna Myers delivered a clutch RBI single. Then in the fourth, the Scotties made it 2-0 as Olivia Porter singled, and after a pair of walks, scored when Myers struck again, lifting a sacrifice fly to right field.
“Makenna has been one of those kids that puts the ball in play,” Todd Bunner said. “She came up big for us.”
Playing from behind, the Leopards (19-2) were able to trim Southmoreland's lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth as Parshall doubled and Emily Frederick followed with an RBI single. The Leopards had a chance to take control of the game as they loaded the bases with no outs. However, Southmoreland shortstop Olivia Porter made two fine plays on ground balls and was able to throw out two runners at the plate before pitcher Suhan picked up a strikeout to preserve the lead.
But despite settling for just a run in the fourth, the Leopards remained aggressive and were able to tie the game in the fifth when Lexie Church, running for Parshall, moved to third on a double by Nicole Ashcroft and scored when Suhan misjudged a popup on the infield, which would have ended the inning. Earlier in the inning, Suhan took a line drive off her hip, yet remained in the circle and finished the frame by getting another key strikeout to keep the game tied.
Parshall and Southmoreland reliever Katie Troisi-Clark took turns tossing a scoreless sixth, but in the seventh, the Leopards were able to complete their game-winning comeback. Christner led off with a walk before an error put runners at first and second. Then it was up to Parshall, and she smacked her game-winning single off the fence in left center, easily scoring Christner.
“I was thinking attack,” Parshall said. “It was on the middle half and Megan is really fast, so I knew she was going to score.”
Only a freshman, Parshall will try to help her team win a WPIAL championship.
“I'm really excited and I really hope we do well,” Parshall said.
Belle Vernon coach Tom Rodriguez acknowledged making it to the finals for the first time since 2008 wasn't easy.
“It was a struggle, but I feel really good,” Rodriguez said.
While the loss was stinging for the Scotties (13-4), they still have a chance to make the state tournament if they can win a consolation final against Trinity 5 p.m. Tuesday at California University of Pennsylvania.
“I told them to keep their heads up,” Todd Bunner said. “We have a game on Tuesday and we're playing for a state berth. They should be proud of what they accomplished (so far), but it's hard to tell them that after they just lost.”
The Scotties advanced to the semifinals with a 7-3 win over fifth-seeded Hampton.
Porter had three hits for the Scotties in that contest and Suhan was the winning pitcher.
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at email@example.com.