New Castle News

Sports

June 4, 2014

Athletes of the Week: Neshannock girls softball team

NEW CASTLE — The Neshannock High softball team knows all about pressure.

After winning a PIAA Class AA championship in 2012 and capturing a WPIAL title following a drop to Single-A last year, the Lady Lancers have been playing under the microscope a lot the past two seasons.

“We play for championships here at Neshannock,” Kimmel said prior to the WPIAL championship game. “It’s what you want. We’ve been fortunate the last few years, we’ve been in the thick of things.

“I think there was more pressure last year, because we dropped down a classification. Most of that team is still intact.”

Pitcher Madison Shaffer got Neshannock rolling this postseason by tossing a seven-inning perfect game in a 7-0 win over Vincentian Academy in the WPIAL quarterfinals at South Side Beaver.

Two days later in the semifinals against Burgettstown, Shaffer again boosted the Lady Lancers to victory. This time around, she used her bat to swat a grand slam as Neshannock rolled to an 11-0 win over the Lady Blue Devils at North Allegheny.

The Lady Lancers waited out an 85-minute rain delay to beat Section 4 rival South Side Beaver for the third time this year and captured the WPIAL crown with an 8-5 win Thursday at California University of Pennsylvania’s Lilley Field.

With their second-straight WPIAL Class A championship, the Lady Lancers earned Lawrence County Co-Athletes of the Week honors, an award sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.

“We enjoy it,” Kimmel said of the championship. “This is what the girls have worked hard for.”

Neshannock will face Burgettstown, the third-place team out of the WPIAL, in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals at noon tomorrow at North Allegheny High School.

The winner will advance to the Western Regional finals and face either District 10 champion Iroquois or District 6 runner-up Claysburg-Kimmel on Monday at a time and site to be determined.

The state championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m. June 13 at Penn State University’s Nittany Lion Softball Park.

During the Lady Lancers’ run to their second-consecutive crown, they have been buoyed by a dominant offense.

Neshannock averaged nearly 13 hits a game in its three WPIAL victories. The Lady Lancers posted 13 hits in the wins over South Side Beaver and Burgettstown, while registering 12 against Vincentian Academy.

“Hitting has been pretty contagious for us,” Kimmel said. “We pride ourselves on hitting all through the order. I don’t think we have a bottom of the order. We just try to hit the ball and move runners.”

Shaffer has been equally dominant in the circle, allowing just nine hits in three games.

In the three contests, she has walked seven batters and struck out 23 in 19 innings.

“She looks like she’s in the groove right now,” Kimmel said. “That changeup is really working good. If she keeps that up, she’s going to be hard to handle.”

Kimmel believes chemistry has been key to his team’s run through the WPIAL playoffs this year.

“That’s a good bunch of kids,” he said. “We don’t have any problems here. The kids, they pull for each other. Nobody has an unkind word for another. Those rides are fun.”

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