NA Outlasts Mt. Lebanon In WPIAL Quarterfinals, 12-6
The North Allegheny softball team punched its ticket to the WPIAL Class 6A semifinals for the second time in the last three seasons with a 12-6 win over Mt. Lebanon on a rain-soaked Wednesday evening at Montour High School. The seventh-seeded Tigers played through the rain and upset the second-seeded Blue Devils on the strength of a 13-hit attack.
The game began under cloudy skies and was scoreless until junior catcher Deirdre Flaherty hit a solo home run, her 12th of the season, to give Mt. Lebanon a 1-0 lead. The Tigers tied the game in the top of the third when Rachel Rusnica stole third and scored on a throwing error, knotting the contest at 1-1.
With rain becoming more of a factor, Mt. Lebanon jumped back in front in the bottom of the third inning on RBI singles from Flaherty and Olivia Bickiso to grab a 3-1 lead. As would be the trend throughout the game, for each punch from the Blue Devils the Tigers answered with a counterpunch.
After receiving three innings of effective pitching from starter Clara Hartnett, the Blue Devils turned to reliever Gabrielle Boone in the top of the fourth inning. Senior Alaina Whipkey greeted Boone unkindly with a leadoff home run, her seventh of the season, over the left field fence to cut the deficit to 3-2. Sophomore Carlyn Vaupel added a two-out RBI single later in the inning to tie the score at 3-3.
Mt. Lebanon took the lead back in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI double by Iris Barone for a 4-3 advantage. However, it would be the last time the Blue Devils held the lead.
North Allegheny continued to bombard Boone in the top of the fifth and tied the game, 4-4, on a RBI single by sophomore Anne Melle. Not done yet, the Tigers took the lead on an RBI single by Annalyn Isaacs and increased the advantage to 7-4 thanks to a two-out, two-run double by senior Sydni Junker.
In the bottom of the fifth, North Allegheny starter Anne Melle had been pitching well but had trouble with her grip under the steady rainfall and walked two batters and uncorked two wild pitches. The second wild pitch allowed Brooke Boehmer to score from third, cutting the NA lead to 7-5. With the Blue Devils inching closer, North Allegheny opted for freshman reliever Sammy Plotsko who struck out two consecutive batters and induced a groundout to end the inning and the Tigers’ two-run lead remained intact.
After Boone struggled and allowed six runs in two innings, Mt. Lebanon brought back Hartnett to the pitching circle for the top of the sixth. The Tigers exploded for five runs against Hartnett in the sixth and put the game out of reach. The five-run inning was highlighted by a bases loaded walk by Reagan Deitrick, an RBI single by Isaacs, a bases loaded walk by Junker and a two-run double by Vaupel for a 12-5 lead. Isaacs was 3-for-4 on the day with two RBI and two runs scored. Junker finished 2-for-3 with two doubles, a walk and three RBI. Vaupel went 3-for-4 with a double and three RBI.
Plotsko pitched the remainder of the game in relief for North Allegheny and yielded only one run in three innings of work with five strikeouts and one walk. Plotsko picked up the first save of her career and earned Wright Automotive Player of the Game honors. Melle earned the victory to improve to 9-5 on the year and struck out six batters in four innings of work. Boone suffered the loss for the Blue Devils.
North Allegheny improves to 12-9 on the season, while Mt. Lebanon’s season ends with a 12-5 mark. The Tigers advance to the WPIAL semifinals to face section rival Pine-Richland on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.
Box Score - Softball vs. Mt. Lebanon - 05/18/2022
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