It’s nothing new for the Neshannock High softball team.
The Lady Lancers have been doing it all year. No matter the situation, no matter the pressure, no matter the player. Neshannock finds a way to win — plain and simple.
The Lady Lancers discovered one more way yesterday at Allegheny College’s Robertson Field as they rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 4-3 walk-off win over Fairview in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class AA playoffs. Neshannock advances to the semifinals Monday against the winner of today’s matchup between Central or Deer Lakes at a site and time to be determined.
The Lady Lancers are at this point because of Madison Shaffer. The freshman singled in the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. The Lady Lancers (22-1) entered the inning trailing, 3-2. After a strikeout to start the frame, Alexandra Fischer walked, Katie Burrelli singled and an error on Fairview’s first baseman loaded the bases for Rayanna Furst. Down to her last strike, Furst singled up the middle to tie the game, and Shaffer laced a single to right field with the bases loaded to win it.
“What was funny was (Rayanna and Madison) didn’t do anything the first few times up,” Neshannock coach Tracy Kimmel said. “But when the game was on the line, they came through. It’s funny how this game works. You can be struggling all day and come up and be the hero. You can’t think about what happened before.
“You’re going to fail most of the time (in softball), but when you have a chance to come through, there’s no greater feeling.”
The Lady Lancers were coming off their first PIAA playoff victory in school history, a 5-3 extra-inning win over Philipsburg-Osceola, the returning state champs. They didn’t get any breaks with Fairview (22-1), which was 43-1 over the last two years entering the game. But the same formula that led Neshannock to this point helped them advance: strong pitching and solid defense.
The Lady Lancers took advantage of three errors by the Lady Tigers and received another great performance from senior pitcher Amanda Furst. She allowed three runs — two earned — over seven innings and gave up seven hits and one walk while striking out five. She yielded just two singles after the third inning.
“We’ve played good defense and pitched well all year,” Kimmel said. “Those are two big keys. Defense and pitching will give you an opportunity to stay in the game, and if you can eke out a couple runs, you’ve got a good shot.”
They Lady Lancers’ next shot comes in the state semifinals, and getting there didn’t come easy.
They trailed, 3-0, after three innings but scored two unearned runs in the fourth on a passed ball and a ground out. The winning run in the seventh also was unearned because of an error on a bunted ball to first base. That opened the door for Neshannock, which enters Monday’s game playing as well as it has all year, Kimmel said.
“(Our confidence) can’t be any higher than what it is right now,” Kimmel said. “We don’t think we’re going to be beat. We believe in everyone who walks up to the plate. It’s one to nine, and we believe anyone who walks up to that plate is going to get the job done.
Burrelli led Neshannock with two hits and a run scored. Amanda Furst was 1 for 3, and Marissa DeMatteo went 1 for 3 and scored run. The Lady Lancers could have a rematch with Deer Lakes, which beat Neshannock, 2-0, in the WPIAL semifinals.
It’s nothing new for the Neshannock High softball team.
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