Make it happen.
That’s the philosophy Neshannock High’s softball team took into yesterday’s PIAA Class A first-round game at North Allegheny.
The Lady Lancers did not sit around and wait. They used an aggressive approach and rolled to an 11-1 win over Smethport. The game was halted in the fifth inning because of the 10-run mercy rule.
Neshannock (17-2) meets Burgettstown (18-5), a 6-4 winner over Southern Huntingdon (17-5), on Thursday at a time and site to be determined by the PIAA. The Lady Lancers beat the Lady Blue Devils, 11-0, in the WPIAL semifinals on May. 22.
“They know us and we know them. It’ll be tougher the second time,” Neshannock junior Marissa DeMatteo said. “I think if we stay focused, we can definitely do it.”
Lady Lancers coach Tracy Kimmel knows that his team should not overlook Burgettstown. Neshannock lost in the WPIAL semifinals two years ago, but went on to win a PIAA title.
“We have to guard against that. I told the girls already that they are in the same position we were in 2012. We had to play our way into the state tournament and made a run. That could be them,” he said. “They have a good team.”
The Lady Lancers knew they had to work for their win against the Lady Hubbers (17-4).
“We’ve always said the first game of a tournament is the hardest to win,” DeMatteo said. “We wanted to come through with a win and just keep it going.”
That’s why Neshannock was aggressive at the plate and on the bases. DeMatteo, the team’s leadoff hitter, provided a spark. She had two singles and a double and scored three runs.
“That’s what we asked of her today. She has been a little unlucky; teams have made some good plays on her. She hadn’t been getting on much the last couple games,” Kimmel said. “We wanted her to get on base early and make things happen and get things going. She is a very good baserunner.”
DeMatteo, a Pitt recruit, led off the bottom of the first with an infield single. She scampered all the way to third on a throwing error. Alexandra Fischer’s two-out single brought her home for a 1-0 lead.
DeMatteo led off the bottom of the third with a blooper to left to help spark a seven-run rally. She hustled around the bases to turn it into a double. Eventually, she scored on a wild pitch.
“We like to be aggressive because it does rattle the other team and causes some errors,” DeMatteo said. “I feel like when you’re up, it’s hard to come back. So we just have to keep putting the ball in play and get good hits and keep it going.”
Neshannock stayed aggressive on the bases. Cassidy Burrelli and Madison Shaffer both came home on double steals in the inning. Marissa Kirkwood and Kaela Zingaro both drove in runs as well. The Lady Lancers batted around in the frame and DeMatteo added a two-run single to give the squad an 8-0 lead.
“We wanted to score runs early,” Kimmel said. “I thought we manufactured some things. That one big inning, we got some good bunts down. That’s really key for a big inning is usually they can get some bunts down and get on base.”
Fischer blasted a triple in the fourth and came home when Madison Altmyer reached on an error. Two more errors led to both runs in the bottom of the fifth for Neshannock. Burrelli drove in one with a single.
That was more than enough offense for Shaffer. She twirled a two-hitter and struck out six. Smethport’s lone run in the fifth inning was an unearned tally.
After DeMatteo’s three hits, Burrelli and Fischer both finished with two. Gina Zingaro, Altmeyer and Kirkwood all added singles.
***To view a photo gallery and to purchase pictures from the game, CLICK HERE.