GREENSBURG – Her Waynesburg Raiders teammates call her “Luck,” but good fortune had little to do with senior catcher Emily Luckey’s performance Tuesday afternoon in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA softball playoffs.
Luckey’s timely hitting and defensive dexterity keyed fifth-seeded Waynesburg’s 11-6 victory over No. 12 Freeport in a game that featured a season’s worth of extra-base hits at Hempfield High School.
Luckey went 3-for-3 and reached base in all four plate appearances, which included a RBI-single in the bottom of the second inning for the game’s first run and a two-run single one inning later.
“It was awesome just to be out there playing in the playoffs,” Luckey said. “We got here my freshmen and sophomore years, but we never made it to the second round. We’re just hitting really well as a team. We have a good lineup, top to bottom.”
Good enough to piece together 11 hits and put the game away with five runs in the sixth inning against a Freeport team that smacked six doubles and a home run by Kristie Radvan despite missing its most potent hitter – freshman Morgan McCarthy.
Radvan’s home run, which led off the top of the seventh inning, could have been more harmful if not for Luckey.
Freeport (10-5), the third-place team from Section 3, had runners on first and third with two outs in the sixth and Radvan at the plate. The Yellow Jackets, who stranded six runners in scoring position, had Jess Kelley attempt to steal second. Luckey glanced at Alexis Roengik, the runner at third base, before unleashing a perfect throw to shortstop Taylor Staley at second base. Kelley was out by a step.
“That was huge,” said Waynesburg head coach Jim Armstrong, who notched his first postseason victory with the Raiders and the program’s first since 2010. “It took the momentum right from them.”
Luckey came close to picking off a couple runners at first base, which is all part of the defensive strategy for Section 2 champion Waynesburg (13-8).
“I like throwing girls out,” Luckey said. “Our (assistant) coach gives me a subtle signal when she thinks we should throw.”
Luckey’s pickoff of Kelley couldn’t have come at a better time for the Raiders, who play Keystone Oaks in the quarterfinals, but it was far from being Waynesburg’s only clutch play.
Unlike Freeport, which struggled to hit with runners in scoring position, Waynesburg had run-scoring hits from five players – Luckey, Hannah Gibbons, Taylor Staley, Tiffany Ross and Felicia Spitznogle – and took full advantage five Yellow Jackets errors.
“Our Achilles’ heel all year has been errors on routine balls,” Freeport coach Sam Ross said. “We’ve hit the ball real good all year.”
Then again, so has Waynesburg, which cut its teeth on a difficult regular-season schedule that included Canon-McMillan, Trinity and a brutal stretch of out-of-state teams at the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“This is one of the strongest lineups I’ve ever played as a coach,” Armstrong said. “It might be the strongest lineup. The girls hit the ball top to bottom and they’ve learned from the mistakes they made earlier in the year.”