CALIFORNIA – To bye, or not to bye, that is the question several Class A softball teams pondered prior to the release last week of the WPIAL playoff pairings.
Because 14 teams qualified for the postseason in Class A, two received first-round byes, along with a layoff of about two weeks before playing a game in which the score is kept.
Some people, like Carmichaels coach Dave Briggs, think playing a first-round game can be better than receiving a first-round bye, which is good because the Mikes were given the No. 3 seed.
Carmichaels had to play Riverview, the third-place team out of Section 3, in a first-round game Thursday at California University’s Lilley Field. The checklist for what the Mikes wanted to accomplish was a short one.
• Win the game and advance to the quarterfinals.
Carmichaels won 10-0 in six innings.
• Don’t get anybody hurt.
The Mikes took a few bumps and bruises, and narrowly avoided what could have a major injury when pitcher Erica Burns was hit in the throat with a wicked line drive off the bat of Hannah Larkin to start the sixth inning.
“My whole life flashed before my eyes on that one,” Briggs said.
As the ball was rocketed back up the middle, Burns was able to get her glove up chest level, but the ball deflected off the tip of the glove and struck her in the neck.
“It shook me up a little bit,” Burns said after the game while still visibly shaken by the play.
Burns stayed in the game, retired three of the next four batters and completed a five-hit shutout that improved Carmichaels’ record to 19-2 and set up a quarterfinal matchup with sixth-seeded Jeannette (15-3) next week.
“Originally, I wanted the bye,” Briggs said. “But after seeing how long the layoff was, I thought we’d be better off just playing. After getting a win, I’m saying it’s better to play.”
Carmichaels played very well. The Mikes had 11 hits, Burns did not walk a batter and the defense committed only one error.
Eight different Carmichaels hitters had at least one hit, and eight scored at least one run. Third baseman Amanda Brown led the Mikes by going 2-for-3 with a double and three RBI. Catcher Lindsey Osbrone was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI, and right fielder Regina Menhart doubled and was hit a pitch in each of her first two plate appearances.
“We’re able to hit one through nine in the order, which takes some of the pressure off the top of the lineup,” Briggs said.
Carmichaels had a four-run lead in the third inning when Brown’s double to left field scored Morgan Berardi and pinch-runner Katie Mays to push the lead to 6-0. Brown singled home Menhart in the sixth to make it 9-0, and one batter later Osborne scampered home from third base on wild pitch to invoke the 10-run rule.
“I’m so glad we didn’t have a bye,” Brown said. “We were all so ready to play. Our practices are good, and every practice is different, but I’d rather play. There is no substitute for playing games.”