CALIFORNIA – The Canon-McMillan softball team has the type of offense that’s hard to miss.
With prolific power hitters such as Olivia Lorusso, Abby McCartney and Giorgiana Zeremenko, it’s tough not to notice when a member of the group does something remarkable – and it would be wise to duck for cover or move your car when it does.
But what transpired during top-seeded Canon-Mac’s 6-0 win over No. 9 Penn-Trafford in the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals Monday at California University’s Lilley Field proved that the Big Macs aren’t just a bunch of big names.
Tara Fowler and Yaszmin Kotar hit home runs, the latter her first of the season. Pitcher Alayna Astuto, known for her control and pitch-to-contact approach, did a spot-on Nolan Ryan impersonation and struck out eight. Lorusso still impacted the game, though it was with a couple of early defensive plays.
And while McCartney and Lorusso went a combined 0-for-7, Canon-Mac’s six, seven and eight hitters – Zeremenko, Fowler and Kirsten Rush – went 5-for-9 with two RBI and four runs.
“What can you say when two of your biggest hitters – Lorusso and McCartney – each go 0-for-something, and the rest of the team steps up?” Canon-McMillan coach Michele Moeller said. “I know Zeremenko is one of our big hitters, too, but when you have those two girls not hit, and have everyone else picking it up, that says a lot about them as a team.”
A team that advanced to the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals to play Hempfield – the only team to defeat the Big Macs (19-1) this season – Wednesday, site and time to be determined.
After four scoreless innings, Canon-Mac struck for three in the fifth: the first on a sacrifice fly from second baseman Ally Bellaire; the second on an infield single from Kotar, who beat the throw with a feet-first slide; and the third on a Linda Rush rocket up the middle.
Astuto retired 12 consecutive batters at one point from the first through the fifth innings, and Lorusso helped the cause by snaring a rocket to end the first. She opened the fourth by making a shot down the line from Lexie Ryan look routine.
“Olivia had a great day over at third base,” Moeller said. “She set the tone early in this game defensively for us.”
Fowler hit her home run in the sixth, a two-run shot that sailed over the fence in left center that scored Zeremenko.
“I felt it as soon as I hit it,” said Fowler, who was 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs.
Kotar, who had been struggling at the plate – “I’ve been off the ball lately,” she said – connected to lead off the seventh, her shot landing shy of the batting cage in left. She, too, finished with two hits, two RBI and two runs.
That was more than enough offense for Astuto, who gave up a single in the first, a double in the seventh and hit a batter, never allowing a Penn-Trafford runner to get past second base.
“Without Alayna we probably wouldn’t be anywhere because she’s our pitcher,” Fowler said. “She always does well on the mound. Yaszmin is an amazing center fielder. She’s really fast and catches basically everything that’s hit to her. Without her, we wouldn’t be the team that we are.”
Fowler is too, of course. Same for Bellaire and Rush, who both made acrobatic catches in the seventh.
And it was that group – not the Big Macs’ big boppers for a change – that had a very obvious impact on this game.