HOUSTON – The three wins in Myrtle Beach, S.C., were great.
It’s doubtful Chartiers-Houston first baseman Piper McLaughlin minded picking up two more to start Section 2-AA play, thumping West Greene and Waynesburg in the middle of this past week, either.
But make no mistake: The Chartiers-Houston softball team’s 3-0 victory Saturday over visting McGuffey felt different.
“We’re rivals with McGuffey,” McLaughlin said. “It felt nice to get payback on them for last year when they beat us (10-2) at the beginning of the season.”
Chartiers-Houston (3-0, 6-0) got the revenge it was after and also took command of the section lead, as six players collected hits against McGuffey pitcher Cassie Weiss.
Bucs pitcher Kayla Briggs tripled to drive in a run and scored twice, while second baseman Haley Sutton and McLaughlin added RBI singles.
Not too shabby, considering Weiss is one of the area’s best pitchers and racked up 177 strikeouts in 138 innings last season.
“We practiced hard (Friday),” Briggs said. “We worked on everything that we needed to. We worked on hitting, starting our swings quicker because we know that Cassie is a good pitcher.”
But as good as Weiss was, Briggs, who had 215 strikeouts in 151 innings for the reigning WPIAL champs last season, was even better.
Briggs threw a complete-game shutout, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out eight. She threw 59 of her 88 pitches for strikes – including 15 of 25 first-pitch strikes – and went to a three-ball count twice, though Briggs’ brightest moment might’ve come while fielding her position.
With two on and nobody out in the top of the sixth, Briggs took a couple steps forward and dove to grab a bunt that McGuffey catcher Sammie Weiss popped in the air. After making the catch, Briggs threw to first for the double play, then induced a flyout to right to end the threat.
“She’s a good athlete,” Chartiers-Houston coach Tricia Alderson said. “We get used to those things from her.”
Having Sammie Weiss, the Highlanders’ No. 3 hitter, bunt while his team trailed by three is something that McGuffey coach Bill Loar said he likely wouldn’t do again given a second chance.
“That was Sammie’s third time seeing her,” Loar said. “If I had it to do over again, I would probably let her hit away a little bit. The third time in, I think she had Kayla Briggs timed a little bit. If I had to re-think it, I probably wouldn’t have bunted. It’s easier said than done.”
Briggs reached on an error to start the game, and McLaughlin moved her to third with a bunt. Briggs scored on Haley Sutton’s single to right.
In the fifth, left fielder Sam Elliott crushed a double to left center that one-hopped the fence. She went to third on a sacrifice bunt but was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice. Briggs made it 2-0 by slapping a triple to right center, scoring designated player Jessica Blumen.
McLaughlin then drove in Briggs on an 0-2 pitch.
“The first time around I think we were kind of nervous, but we just had to make sure that we didn’t get frustrated,” McLaughlin said.
Briggs retired 11 in a row at one point before her throwing error in the fifth gave McGuffey (3-1, 3-1) life. But Briggs settled down and forced a bunt popout that catcher Casey Craig alertly snagged and got a swinging strikeout to end the frame.
“We thought we prepared well,” Loar said. “But it was fundamentals today: catching fly balls, getting bunts down. Do those things and it might have been a different game.”