New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
Fall behind against the Neshannock High softball team and you can pretty much forget about a comeback.
Yesterday, Frazier felt pretty good about scoring a run in the top of the first against the Lady Lancers.
However, Neshannock responded with four of its own in the bottom of the frame and stormed to a 9-1 triumph in a WPIAL Class A semifinal at North Allegheny High School.
The win puts the Lady Lancers (17-2) into Thursday’s district championship game against Carmichaels (21-2), a 9-0 winner over Burgettstown, at a time to be determined at California University’s Lilly Field.
“It’s so exciting,” second baseman Marissa DeMatteo said. “It’s a big thing for us.”
While Neshannock captured the PIAA Class AA title last year, the squad missed out on a shot at WPIAL gold when it dropped a 2-0 loss to Deer Lakes in the semifinals at North Allegheny. It was the only blemish during Neshannock’s 24-1 run to the state crown.
“It’s very special, especially since we lost in the semis last year,” sophomore pitcher Madison Shaffer said. “So, this will be our first WPIAL championship experience. It’s exciting to get that experience.”
The Lady Commodores (18-3) were thinking of an upset after scoring a run in the top of the first. Monica Joseph singled to start the game. She advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and an error. She scampered home on a wild pitch.
Unfazed, Neshannock unleashed its powerful offense in the bottom half of the inning. After an out, Jamie Graziani, DeMatteo and Madison Altmyer smacked consecutive doubles. Katie Burrelli followed with a two-run triple and Allie Fischer brought home the fourth run with a single.
“I think a team needs to come back and not get rattled by one run,” said DeMatteo, who added a two-run triple in the fifth. “I have been practicing every day. My dad has been helping me outside. I’ve been trying to just get a good piece of the ball every time. I was seeing the ball well today. It’s good because it helps the team, not only me.”
Neshannock coach Tracy Kimmel was happy with his team’s response.
“That’s what we like to do. We like to get the jump on teams and make them chase us. It puts a lot of pressure on teams, especially in the playoffs. If you can get up on a team by three, four or five runs, it’s pretty hard to come back from that,” he said. “We stubbed our toe here last year. We wanted to take care of that this year.”
After allowing a run in the first, Shaffer settled in at the pitching circle. She allowed just three Lady Commodores to reach base through the next six innings.
“Our offense helps out a lot. It puts less pressure on our defense and me, especially, to be perfect,” she said. “We just try to worry about our team the most and try to get as many runs as we can. I am proud of the way we played. I thought we played the best we could. Frazier is a good team and it was a good win.”
Overall, Shaffer finished with 12 strikeouts. She scattered three hits.
“This is one of the better games she’s pitched. This is what we’re looking for right now at this time of the year” Kimmel said. “She has had a lot of pressure on her through the year, especially against the good teams. She has a lot of eyes on her. She’s doing a great job for us and she’s only going to get better.”
Neshannock’s offense added three more runs in the bottom of the fifth. DeMatteo tripled home Rayanna Furst (single) and Graziani (fielder’s choice). Altmyer’s groundout plated DeMatteo for a 7-1 lead.
Furst put an exclamation point on the win in the bottom of the sixth. Marissa Kirkwood lined a one-out single. Furst followed with a booming homer run over the fence in right for a 9-1 advantage.
DeMatteo led the Lady Lancers, who secured a PIAA playoff berth as well, with a triple and a double. Furst homered and singled, while Fischer had two singles. Graziani and Altmyer both doubled, while Shaffer and Kirkwood singled.
Frazier meets Burgettstown in Tuesday’s consolation game.