The season came to an end on Monday for both the Sharpsville and Jamestown softball teams in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs.
District 10 Class 2A champion Sharpsville dropped a tough 3-2 decision to Ligonier Valley at Slippery Rock University while D-10 Class 3A champ Jamestown suffered an 8-0 loss to Avonworth at Penn State Behrend in Erie.
Following are staff reports:
• Ligonier Valley 3, Sharpsville 2 – At Slippery Rock University, the District 10 2A champion Blue Devils’ magical run came to a screeching halt Monday.
“It definitely has been a magical ride,” Sharpsville Coach Mark Piccirilli said. “Everyone in Sharpsville’s been talking about it, but I couldn’t be prouder of these girls and my coaching staff than I am right now. I know it hurts, but this is something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
With the loss, Sharpsville (14-7) is forced to say goodbye to its lone senior Katherine Bornes.
“I worked with the outfielders and she worked with me for most of the season,” Piccirilli said. “We had three or four games left and we had to move her to second (base to fill a hole created by an unexpected departure). She did a great job there for us with little time to learn the position. She helped get us here.”
After two scoreless innings, the Rams (20-2) struck first on Kailey Johnston’s 2-strike, 2-out single to score Eden Krouse and Maddie Griffin in the top of the 3rd.
In their next at-bat, the Rams loaded the bases with 1 away against Sharpsville pitcher Breanna Hanley but was only able to push one run across on a dropped force out at the plate.
“It certainly helps, because teams don’t score a lot off of Maddie,” Ligonier Valley Coach Mark Zimmerman quipped when asked if he was comfortable with a 3-0 lead. “When you’re down to the final 8, 10, 12 teams in the state, a lot of those girls play travel ball and have hit a lot of balls. Don’t get me wrong, we like Maddie and we liked where we were at ... we just don’t feel comfortable with a 1- or 2-run lead.”
Sharpsville made it 3-1 on a Raegan Knicley RBI single in the bottom of the 4th and pulled within 3-2 on Paige Yarian’s groundout to second base in the 6th, but Griffin retired the side in the seventh to perserve the win.
“Paige Yarian has been clutch all playoffs,” Piccirilli said. “Raegan has been hitting the ball. I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”With Griffin having recorded 4 perfect games and 11 no-hitters on the season, Piccirilli and Co. knew what to they were up against with the Ligonier Valley pitcher, but with just a Ericka Grandy double and a Knicley single, it wasn’t enough.
Griffin recorded 9 strikeouts – 6 looking – and walked just 2 batters on the afternoon.
“We were prepared for her,” Piccirilli said. “We watched some film on the Griffin girl and came up with a gameplan. We had talked to some other coaches who had faced them and they said to crowd the plate to take away the rise pitch. We told the girls to stand where you feel comfortable. For the most part, I think they were laying off the rise pitch.
“She’s tough to hit with those spin balls. We had four days to prepare for what she throws and four days of practice against it. We were ready to go. She just has some wicked movement on her ball. It was hard to pick up.”
With the win, the Rams will advance to Thursday’s PIAA quarterfinals and will play Chestnut Ridge (18-6) at a site and time to be determined.
The District 5 champions tied the game in the seventh and scored in the 10th to outlast District 7 runner-up Shenango 3-2 Monday evening. The winning run was scored on a sacrifice fly.
Notes: The loss snapped Sharpsville’s seven-game winning streak. Their last loss came in a 13-3 loss to Reynolds on May 15. ... Hanley struck out 10 and walked 2 over seven innings for Sharpsville. ... Ligonier Valley stranded 11 baserunners (7 in scoring position) to Sharpsville’s 3. The Rams’ only losses were to Shenango in the WPIAL semifinals and to Mt. Pleasant on April 23 – Information submitted by Herald Sports Correspondent Corey J. Corbin.
• Avonworth 8, Jamestown 0 – At Penn State Behrend in Erie, Avonworth ace Alivia Lantzy fired a 2-hitter with 12 strikeouts as the Antelopes advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals.
Avonworth scored 6 runs in the top of the 2nd inning. The big hit was a 3-run homer by Abby Stanley. Jamestown starting pitcher Dani Ficeti was replaced on the mound by Savannah Thurber after giving up 5 of the 6 runs.
Avonworth tacked on 2 more runs in the 5th to go up 8-0.
Jamestown closed out its historic season with a 16-7 record while Avonworth improved to 14-6.
Monday’s game was the first-ever PIAA playoff game for the Jamestown softball program. The Muskies advanced to the state playoffs with a 9-3 win over Fairview in the District 10 championship game – Jamestown’s first-ever D-10 title.
Ficeti is the only senior on the Muskies’ roster.
Avonworth advances to Thursday’s semifinals to play District 7 champ Mount Pleasant – a 4-0 winner over D-6 runner-up Bald Eagle Area.