McKEES ROCKS – It’s hard to tell in which area of her game – hitting or pitching – Riverside High School’s Kirsten Wilson inflicts more damage to the opponent.
In the WPIAL Class AA softball semifinals Wednesday afternoon, Chartiers-Houston didn’t have an answer for either one.
Wilson, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher, threw her 16th shutout in 18 games and supplied the only run she would need by hitting a long home run in the top of the first inning as Riverside defeated Chartiers-Houston 4-0 in a battle of unbeaten teams on a sun-baked afternoon at Fairhaven Park.
The win sends Riverside (18-0) to next week’s WPIAL finals against top-seeded and defending champion Deer Lakes, an 11-7 winner over Beaver in the other semifinal. Chartiers-Houston (18-1) will play Beaver (12-7) in the third-place game Tuesday with the winner moving on to the state tournament.
Wilson threw a two-hitter against C-H and struck out 13, raising her season total to 198. In three postseason games, Wilson has allowed only four hits.
“We knew she was good and that it was going to be tough to score runs,” C-H coach Tricia Alderson said.
Two of those four postseason hits allowed by Wilson were bunts by C-H’s Paige Gallagher. After falling behind 1-0, the Bucs’ Kayla Briggs drew a leadoff walk from Wilson in the bottom of the first inning, and Gallagher followed with a perfectly placed bunt single past a charging third baseman Morgan McElwain and to the shortstop hole vacated by Logan Snyder, who was covering second base.
Even with runners on first and second and no outs, it’s tough to score against Wilson, who ended the threat with three consecutive strikeouts.
“We haven’t faced a pitcher like her in a long time,” Alderson said. “It has probably been since the Fannett-Metal game (in last year’s PIAA Class A playoffs) and in my opinion, Wilson is better. She doesn’t get scored upon for a reason.”
That reason is Wilson’s rare combination of an overpowering fastball and pinpoint control of her complementary pitches. Against C-H, Wilson used a screwball and rise pitch effectively after getting ahead in the count.
“We were behind the screwball,” Alderson said. “We hit a couple late, but they didn’t fall in.”
The only other hit for C-H was McLaughlin’s bunt single to lead off the sixth. She advanced to second base on an illegal pitch, but Wilson got Toni Spossey on a deep flyout to left field and added two more strikeouts to keep the shutout intact.
“We had a hard time with some of her high pitches,” McLaughlin said. “She seemed to throw the first pitch in there just to get ahead in the count, then got us to chase. If we had to do it again, maybe we’d be more aggressive on the first pitch and then take more pitches to get deeper in the count.”
Spossey replaced Briggs as the Bucs’ pitcher after two innings and Riverside ahead 2-0. Spossey, who had significant movement on her pitches, blanked the Panthers until Natalie Pritts’ single in the seventh made it 3-0. Riverside tacked on another run on an error.
Wilson, who Riverside head coach Pam McCarty has called the best hitter in Panthers history, drained much of the drama from the game with one mighty swing only three batters into the game. She hit a long home run that bounced off the roof of and then over the concession stand beyond the left-field fence. Wilson was 1-for-2 and drew two walks.
Only twice this season has a team scored on Riverside. Both times it was Mohawk as the Indians lost by scores of 9-5 and 4-1. Chartiers-Houston defeated Mohawk in the quarterfinals.
“I thought we would figure her out the second time through the order,” McLaughlin said. “I think some girls got down on themselves a bit instead of saying we’re going to come back and get her.”
Riverside stretched it lead to 2-0 in the second inning, when Cassie Barker’s single scored McElwain.