South Allegheny can't keep magical playoff run alive
UNIVERSITY PARK — Hal`s Gals created quite a stir this spring but went out with a whimper against arguably the state`s best pitcher.
Coach Hal Minford`s South Allegheny softball team was helpless against Philipsburg-Osceola star Chelsea Rex, mustering only one hit in a 10-0 loss that ended the Lady Gladiators` season.
South Allegheny`s magical run into the PIAA postseason essentially ended in the third inning, when starting pitcher Sarah Jacobs allowed six runs and six hits.
'I felt like it was only a matter of time until we got to her,' Philipsburg-Osceola coach Jim Gonder said. 'We hit the ball hard the first time through the lineup. We were going to get to her.'
The Lady Glads (12-7) weren`t getting to Rex. A star senior, Rex doesn`t throw especially hard but possesses a masterful way of changing speeds and altering spins. She made SA look foolish most of the evening, mixing a fastball with off-speed pitches to near perfection.
Rex`s one blemish — Marissa D`Angelo`s infield single — did not detract from her performance. D`Angelo was South Allegheny`s only baserunner as Rex struck out nine. In fact, Rex only went to one three-ball count.
'She`s the real deal,' Minford said. 'She just knows how to pitch and we didn`t do anything against her.'
Despite her dominance, Rex maintains she wasn`t at her best. Had she been any better, of course, the Lady Glads may have chosen to depart University Park after an inning.
'I missed my spot on a couple of pitches early in the game but they missed some of those chances,' Rex said. 'I got better as the game went on.'
The game was scoreless through two innings thanks to a terrific double play turned in by SA third baseman Tyler Geary.
Another player involving Geary turned the game`s tide in the bottom of the third.
With a runner at second and no outs, Philipsburg-Osceola`s Aisha Goss bunted down the third-base line. Geary charged the ball and aggressively went for the out at third.
Third base umpire Ben Crenshaw raised his arm in an 'out' motion before ultimately making a safe call. Everyone from Minford, to SA`s players to SA administrators voiced their displeasure, to no avail.
'I wasn`t too happy about that play and it really did have a big impact on the game,' Minford said. 'He said he was anticipating a low throw. I said that I didn`t think this game had anything to do with anticipation. I wasn`t happy at all.'
With the heart of Philipsburg-Osceola`s order set to follow, the Lady Mounties quickly took a 6-0 advantage.
The only remaining drama was whether Rex could produce a perfect game. D`Angelo`s roller to short resulted in an infield hit.
'I wasn`t too upset about it,' Rex said. 'Don`t get me wrong, it would have been really nice to get it, but that`s no big deal. The main thing was winning the game, and that`s what we were able to do.'
Although SA was sloppy defensively and Jacobs didn`t appear to have her usual command, Minford was not interested in bashing his squad.
'We didn`t have it today but I`m not going to get angry about it,' he said. 'That was a really good team and we made some mistakes and played poorly. It happens. Our goal every year is to win the WPIAL title and to make the state playoffs. We didn`t quite pull it off this season, but we`ll keep trying. There are a lot of good players on this team.'
With Geary, Jacobs and a number of other regulars back next season, Minford feels like the future is bright.
'I have never been more proud of any other team that I`ve ever coached,' Minford said. 'These girls gave it their all, and they did a lot of great things. We`ll be back.'
NOTES — South Allegheny athletic director Eric Roche and high school principal Jeff Solomon provided moral support from the dugout.