Opposing pitchers aren’t the only ones who have to be careful with a Canon-McMillan softball player at the plate.
Big Macs head coach Michele Moeller admitted to ducking behind the pitching screen while throwing batting practice Tuesday afternoon. Her assistant coaches have not been so lucky. Canon-McMillan assistant Steve Moskal was hit in the hand by a line drive earlier this week and a volunteer assistant has not returned to the team since being hit last year.
It’s a small price for having one of the most productive offenses in not only the state, but the nation. According to MaxPreps, Canon-McMillan ranks first in the state and is tied for second in the nation with 38 home runs this season in just 15 games played.
Christian Academy of Knoxville leads the nation with 48 home runs in 32 games, and the Big Macs are tied with Moorpark (Calif.), which has played six more games than Canon-McMillan.
“Pitching to them is a scary place to be,” Moeller said. “I can’t imagine being a pitcher in the WPIAL and having to face them. I’ve never seen a team this offensively talented. They just keep getting taller and stronger. I don’t know how often I’ll get to see a team like this.”
The Big Macs, 13-2 overall and 9-1 in Section 4, have needed every bit of offense in the defense of their PIAA Class AAAA Championship. Having to replace a pitcher such as Alayna Astuto, who was the 2013 Observer-Reporter Softball Player of the Year, Canon-McMillan’s offense is shouldering the burden of helping a young pitcher, junior right-hander Tara Fowler, become assimilated with offenses in Class AAAA.
Senior third baseman Olivia Lorusso, a Robert Morris recruit, is batting .558 with 11 home runs and 27 RBI and junior outfielder Abby McCartney is doing her part with a .652 average, 10 home runs and 35 RBI.
The Big Macs’ team batting average is .467 and they are averaging more than 10 runs per game. The gaudy offensive statistics would have most coaches jumping for joy, but it’s the other aspects of Canon-McMillan’s game that have Moeller concerned.
C-M has committed 28 errors and holds a team earned run average of 4.41 with a 30-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Fowler, has a record of 8-2 but is experiencing growing pains similar to the ones Astuto had a year ago.
With the majority of the Big Macs’ roster already in possession of a state championship ring, Moeller has challenged them to win another.
“They have to dig down deep to see if they are hungry for the same accolades they earned last year,” Moeller said. “This group has the talent. You look around at our team, and there’s no reason why we should be taking a step backward defensively.”
Canon-McMillan’s 19-game winning streak in Section 4-AAAA came to an end April 8 with a 15-3 loss to Baldwin. With four section games remaining, beginning today with a much-anticipated rematch against Baldwin at North Strabane Field (4 p.m.), Moeller has emphasized less mistakes as the Big Macs aim for their third straight WPIAL title.
“I think the challenge we are facing at times is there was such a hunger for a state championship, and now that they have it, can they maintain that hunger?,” Moeller said. “Do you want to maintain success and do all the little things that are demanded of you to reach those goals?”
Iagnemma leading Lions
South Fayette head softball coach Vic Iagnemma did not have to look far to find a player to help the Lions compete for a Section 2-AAA title.
Iagnemma’s daughter, Ashley, is South Fayette’s junior starting pitcher who has the Lions’ in position to unseat Trinity as the top team in the section after missing the playoffs last year.
The success has started with Ashley, who propelled South Fayette (8-1, 10-1) to a 3-0 record last week in wins over Burgettstown, Montour and Carrick. In the 9-1 non-section win Monday over the Blue Devils, Iagnemma was a single away from the cycle, drove in five runs and struck out five to earn the win.
In the Lions’ 13-7 victory over section rival Montour Tuesday, Iagnemma recorded a career-high 17 strikeouts while hitting a home run and driving in six. She had six strikeouts in a three-inning no-hitter against Carrick with a home run and three RBI.
After defeating the Hillers April 12, South Fayette will face Trinity today, weather permitting, at South Strabane Field with a section title on the line.
Carmichaels senior Brandon Lawless, who made first-team on the O-R All-District Basketball Team as a senior, was an all-district pick in football as a senior and first-team all-district in baseball as a junior, will continue his athletic and academic career at Division II’s Alderson Broaddus. He will play on the Battlers’ football and baseball teams.
Lawless had opportunities to play basketball in college, but decided to join classmate Tyler Aeschbacher at A-B. The senior was a standout quarterback for the Mikes last Fall when he completed 114 of 187 passes for 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The ace of Carmichaels’ pitching staff, Lawless went 7-1 as a junior with 63 strikeouts, 13 walks and a 1.83 ERA. He currently ranks fourth in the WPIAL with a 4-0 record.
WPIAL baseball & softball leaders
McGuffey senior pitcher Cassie Weiss’ dominance in Class AA is reflected in the WPIAL’s softball statistical leaders through Wednesday.
Weiss ranks second with a 9-1 record and second with 108 strikeouts behind West Greene sophomore Bailey Bennington’s 112 strikeouts.
In baseball, Canon-McMillan senior outfielder Teagan Piechnick ranks eighth in the WPIAL in batting average (.561), second in home runs (6), fifth in RBI (18) and first in runs (22).