UNIVERSITY PARK —
The Neshannock High softball team came up short in its bid for history yesterday.
The Lady Lancers were gunning for consecutive PIAA crowns in different classifications, which would have been a first across the state. They would have become the first softball team in the WPIAL to win back-to-back state championships as well.
But Williams Valley had other ideas.
The Lady Vikings plated 13 runs off Neshannock pitching, five off bases-loaded walks, en route to a 13-0 decision in the PIAA Class A title tilt at Penn State University’s Beard Field. The game was stopped after six innings because of the mercy rule.
Last year, the Lady Lancers captured the state’s Class AA crown with a 4-3 eight-inning verdict over Warrior Run in Class AA.
“I don’t worry about stuff like that. Those are things to put in the history books,” Kimmel said of his team possibly carving out a piece of history. “It doesn’t matter. The better team won today, there’s no question about it.”
Neshannock came in as the WPIAL champions, the first district title in the program’s history. Williams Valley was competing in its first state championship game in any sport.
“This feels great; I can’t describe it,” Lady Vikings coach Lee Reiser said. “I was worried about our youth. Sometimes youth is a good thing.
“I didn’t really play the underdog card with the girls. I didn’t tell them anything about Neshannock. I just wanted them to believe they could win.”
Lady Lancers sophomore pitcher Madison Shaffer sailed along in the first three innings as the teams battled to a scoreless duel. But Shaffer struggled to find the strike zone in the fourth inning.
Williams Valley (23-4) put together three singles — one being an infield knock — while working three walks. Two of the walks came with the bases loaded.
“I just think that’s youth,” Kimmel said. “It’s sort of inexperience right now. She’ll get better and she’ll get better command of her pitches.
“You have to be able to rely on your fastball to get out of trouble.”
The Lady Vikings sent nine batters to the plate in the inning and they grabbed a 3-0 lead.
“You could just see the weight coming off their shoulders,” Reiser said. “They were tight at first. I was a little worried at first. I tried to tell them this is just an experience you have to go out and enjoy. Anything you do is a plus.”
Shaffer opened the fifth by plunking Williams Valley’s Rayanne Hawk in the helmet. That started a rally of 10 Lady Vikings batters strutting to the plate.
Williams Valley scored four runs in the fifth on three more hits and two walks. One walk was with the bags full and a two-out, two-run double capped the inning. Hannah Nestor’s two-run double in the fifth knocked out Shaffer.
Shaffer pitched the first 4 2/3 innings and 5 1/3 total after coming on again in relief. In her first stint, Shaffer (21-3) allowed six hits and seven runs — all earned — with seven walks and three strikeouts. She tossed 115 pitches as well.
“I definitely wasn’t happy with my control. It was everywhere,” Shaffer said. “It was probably a little bit of both nerves and not having it.”