McKEES ROCKS – In softball, the margin of error can be very small, particularly when the opponent has a dominant pitcher. Multiple errors, even just two, can be enough to send a team to defeat.
That’s why it’s important for players to put the ball in play, so from that standpoint, Burgettstown High School coach Mark Deer was pleased with his team despite not having played in nearly three weeks.
The base hits weren’t there, but the Blue Devils didn’t need as many of them. Aggressive baserunning and a few defensive miscues opened the door for Burgettstown, which defeated South Side Beaver, 2-1, Monday at Fairhaven Park in a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal.
Burgettstown (16-4), reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2006, plays Carmichaels, a 15-0 victor over Jeannette, Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.
“This means a lot,” said senior shortstop Lizzie Strain. “We’re going to hopefully carry our momentum on to the next round. We shook off our jitters in the first couple of innings and played our game.”
Strain, along with third baseman Sami Scopel form one half of a very defensively sound infield behind pitcher Bryanna Lonick. With only four strikeouts, Lonick wasn’t overpowering, but she kept the South Side Beaver hitters off-balance and had stellar defense behind her.
Defense, or the lack thereof, was at the forefront of the game because that’s how Burgettstown scored both its runs.
Shannon Briggs, the Blue Devils’ No. 9 hitter, started the bottom of the third with a bunt single and advanced on a sacrifice by Caley Ritts. Scopel followed with a grounder through the legs of third baseman Toni Yacoviello, scoring Briggs.
Strain’s single pushed Scopel to third base, and Lonick followed with a popout to second baseman Ashley Laughlin. Scopel bluffed breaking for home plate, and Laughlin threw to third to try to pick off the Burgettstown baserunner. The throw sailed past third base, and Scopel scampered home for a 2-0 Burgettstown lead.
“The good thing was, in those situations, we ran the bases well,” said Deer. “My kids knew to take the extra base, they did it, and it paid off. We didn’t hit as well as I would liked to. The No. 2 seed was nice – don’t get me wrong – on paper. But we haven’t played a real game since May 2nd. That’s a long layoff. I thought we were a little rusty at the plate, but their pitcher pitched a nice ball game, too.”
That proved to be the only scoring until the top of the sixth when, with two outs, the Rams (14-5) strung together three singles, the third by Connor McGaffic that scored Cheyenne Seik. Lonick induced a popout to end the threat, then set down the Rams in order in the seventh inning on only five pitches.
McGaffic pitched well enough to win, allowing only four hits and walking just one, but it came as a surprise to Deer that McGaffic pitched instead of Sarah Androlia, who threw a gem for South Side Beaver in the first round.
“I was shocked,” said Deer. “We prepared for (Androlia.) I think they tried to surprise us.”
McGaffic, whose solo home run was the only scoring in South Side Beaver’s 1-0 first-round win, was 2-for-3 and could’ve had a third hit but for a quick snag by Lonick on a line drive comebacker that turned into a double play.
“You take away those three errors we had in that one inning, and it’s a totally different ball game,” South Side Beaver coach Theresa Waxler said.