NA tops Elizabeth Forward again
Preparation is only part of the battle in sports, but execution is the second and the more important aspect.
Just ask Elizabeth Forward coach Sandy Smith.
After losing to North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals and then watching the Tigers win the title, Smith knew what to expect in Monday's rematch in the first round of the PIAA tournament at Fairhaven Park.
"We've watched NA a bunch of times, and we knew their one and two hitters would slap (hit) or bunt," said Smith, who is in her fifth year with the program. "We practiced and practiced, defending that. We made a bad throw, and that hurt us."
Junior center fielder Kari Steigerwald bunted down the third base line with one out and used her speed to beat the throw. Junior catcher Jill Dorsch followed with a bunt back to senior pitcher Heather Riley. But Riley bounced the throw past first base into foul territory, allowing Steigerwald to advance to third.
Junior third baseman Lily Matusiak then grounded to shortstop Jaime Turner, who decided to not throw to first to avoid the chance that the speedy Steigerwald would score from third on the throw.
"Before that play, I told them how important it was to not give up a run," Smith said. "That might have stuck with her."
Turner's decision not to throw left the bases loaded for designated hitter Jess Givens, who ripped a single to right field to plate two runners.
"I know I have a job to do, and I go out and try to do it," Givens said.
That was all senior Liz Vrabel needed as she struck out eight in a 2-0 one-hitter. North Allegheny (22-3) will play Latrobe (17-1), a 4-1 winner over City League champion Allderdice, in the quarterfinals Thursday at a site to be determined.
"It's always a test to play a team twice," said North Allegheny coach Rick Meister, whose team defeated Elizabeth Forward, 6-0, in the WPIAL playoffs. "To tell you the truth, I was more worried about this game then some of the games in the WPIAL playoffs."
Elizabeth Forward (11-6) never got a runner to second base, but the Warriors tried to force the issue against Dorsch. The Warriors got the leadoff batter on in the second and third innings on walks, but Dorsch threw both out attempting to steal.
"We thought they would probably play for one run and go into short game," Meister said. "I've been saying this all year, Jill Dorsch deserves a lot of credit behind the plate."
With those rallies ended, North Allegheny cruised behind Vrabel, who has given up just one run and five hits in 42 postseason innings. Vrabel's strikeout count was down, though, giving the North Allegheny fielders more chances than usual in the field.
"These girls know there are going to be days when Vrabel doesn't get 10-15 strikeouts and that they will have to make the plays,," Meister said. "That was important."