NEW CASTLE —
Madison Shaffer nearly was unbeatable last year.
The scary thought for opponents of the Neshannock High softball team is the junior pitcher may be even better in her second year inside the circle.
“She’s been a pretty dominating pitcher these past couple of years,” Lady Lancers coach Tracy Kimmel said. “She has good speed and she has some other pitches.
“She’s starting to get the command now where she’s around the plate more. Last year, she was (up in the zone) and got behind with a lot of 3-0 counts. We told her to go after the batter, sprinkle in her changeup and she’d be OK.”
Shaffer has been more than OK this year.
Through Thursday’s 11-0 win over Burgettstown, she has posted a 12-1 record with 68 strikeouts and a 1.11 ERA over 54 innings.
“She works hard at it,” Kimmel said. “She works with her dad (former Riverside player Jeff Shaffer) a lot. She deserves everything she gets. If you work hard at it like she does, it’s only a matter of time until you have success.”
EARNING THE NOD
Shaffer needed just 84 pitches — 61 for strikes — to secure a perfect game in a 7-0 win over Vincentian Academy in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals on May 20. She struck out 10 batters in the contest.
Shaffer broke a scoreless stalemate with a third-inning grand slam and finished with five RBIs to lead Neshannock to a 11-0 victory over Burgettstown in the WPIAL semifinals at North Allegheny.
She allowed just two hits and struck out five in the win over the Lady Blue Devils.
The performances earned her Lawrence County Athlete of the Week honors, an award sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.
“That’s the first perfect game that I’ve been involved in that went seven innings,” Kimmel said. “She pitched pretty good last week. She only gave up two hits and one of those should have been caught. She didn’t give up anything hard.
“She’s swinging the bat well right now, period. I like the ones that leave the yard, especially when there’s a few on base.”
Shaffer was unaware of her perfect game until Kimmel’s post-game speech.
“I didn’t know I threw a perfect game until afterwards,” she said. “That’s not something I worry about while I’m in the game. I’m focused on getting outs and doing well for my team.”
Kimmel acknowledged the positives of Shaffer not being aware of her potential milestone during the game.
“She didn’t know she did it until we talked about it after the game,” he said. “That’s a good thing, too, because then you get to trying too hard when you know about it.”
With as many as five left-handed batters in the starting lineup, the Lady Lancers picked up on a trend to Burgettstown pitcher Kate Tarr’s pitch selection.
“We noticed early on against lefties — and I’m assuming for righties as well — that she was throwing inside,” said Shaffer, who drove in teammates Jenna DeLuca, Marissa DeMatteo and Cassidy Burrelli on the grand slam. “We moved up in the box and watched the ball. We made sure we hit it.”
Shaffer didn’t notice how far the ball traveled.
“I couldn’t really tell,” she said. “My philosophy is to run it out no matter what. I was just worried about getting to first.”
The four runs didn’t hand the Lady Lancers the win, though.
“They were nice, because it got us up,” Shaffer said. “But, we have to play hard either way.”