CALIFORNIA – Kellyn Perich ended the curse.
After playoff losses each of the past four seasons at California University’s Lilley Field, the Peters Township softball team got a gem from Perich yesterday in the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals, as the sophomore pitcher threw a complete-game shutout, complete with 11 strikeouts, to upset second-seeded Latrobe, 1-0.
“It opens up so many more opportunities,” Perich said. “I think we’re going to go far.”
No. 7 Peters Township (18-4) advanced to the WPIAL semifinals and will play third-seeded North Allegheny, a 7-5 winner over McKeesport yesterday, Wednesday, site and time to be determined.
Latrobe (15-6) had runners on second and third in the bottom of the seventh inning – thanks, in part, to two of Perich’s three walks – before she struck out pinch-hitter Amber Reeping swinging to end it.
“She was good,” Latrobe coach Rick Shaheen said. “We chased a lot of high pitches. We chased pitches that we should not have gone after.”
Perich has split time for much of this season with Carly Konopka, who hit a walk-off grand slam in a first-round victory over Pine-Richland.
In that game, Perich relieved Konopka in the circle and allowed no runs over the final three innings, giving her two wins and 16 strikeouts over her past 10 innings.
“I can’t be more proud,” Perich said. “We’re a team. (Konopka) won us the game. I was just as happy as she was.”
Konopka, like Perich a sophomore and part of Peters Township’s young nucleus, didn’t cede the entire spotlight and drove in the game’s only run with a bloop single in the top of the first inning.
That turned out to be enough against Latrobe, which won WPIAL Class AAAA titles in 2007, ’08 and ’11.
“It feels amazing because, at the beginning of the season, people did underestimate us,” Konopka said. “Losing seven starters and having a new coach – again … it feels great to exceed everyone’s expectations.”
Third baseman Hannah Berardino bunted the first pitch of the game and reached safely when the ball came to a stop on the white chalk along the first-base line. After two popouts, shortstop Lindsay McKnight walked and Konopka drove Berardino home.
The throw was a strong one, but as Berardino slid, Latrobe catcher Jessica Tatone bobbled the throw, enabling Peters Township to grab a 1-0 lead.
“She should have been out, in my opinion,” Bowers said. “But she did a hook slide. I really wasn’t sure whether the catcher dropped the ball or she just missed her with the tag. We got lucky with that run, and it held.”
Perich reached on a one-out single to center in the third inning. McKnight bunted her over, and Perich went to third on a wild throw to second by Latrobe first baseman Shelby Noel. But Konopka bounced back to the pitcher to end the threat.
Indians catcher Abby Cunningham delivered a stomach-in-your-throat kind of moment in the bottom of the third, when she caught a ball – twice, actually – near the first-base dugout, keeping it from popping out of her glove as she tumbled to the ground.
Latrobe shortstop Kaity Finley ended Perich’s no-hit bid by shooting a single to right in the next at-bat, but Perich made that a non-issue by recording her seventh strikeout in the first nine outs to end the inning.
Important, yes. Though Perich, rarely rattled, saved her best for last.
“Unlike most pitchers, the more pressure she has, the better she pitches,” Peters Township coach Bob Bowers said. “She showed no emotion or stress. She was fully relaxed until the last pitch. In pressure situations, she can hang.”
Olivia Gumbita struck out 10 for Latrobe. … Tori Weida and Viktoria Heiser added hits for Peters Township. … The Indians advanced to the WPIAL semifinals for a second consecutive season.