HOOKSTOWN – Sometimes, a message can be sent without uttering a word.
That’s what Burgettstown High School’s softball team did against Shenango on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon at South Side Beaver High School.
Just make sure you don’t mention seeding to any of the Blue Devils’ players or coaching staff.
“We won’t even talk about it now,” said Mark Deer, wearing the grin of a head coach whose team just made its point.
The Blue Devils, the No. 5 seed despite being the Section 1 champion, used a blend of strong pitching from Kate Tarr, solid hitting from, well, just about every spot in the lineup, and some solid defense to rout Shenango, 8-2, in a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal round game.
That’s the same Shenango team that was seeded fourth – one spot ahead of the Blue Devils if you’re doing the math – despite a second-place finish in Section 4.
The victory moved Burgettstown into the semifinals Thursday against Neshannock. That is the same Neshannock team that knocked off Vincentian, 7-0, in the quarterfinals yesterday behind a perfect game by junior Madison Shaffer. The game is expected to be at 3 p.m. at North Allegheny High School.
Shenango, which had a first-round bye thanks to its seed, finished the season with a 14-4 record.
“Last year, we had the bye, and I thought it hurt us,” said Deer. “It’s a big layoff. I’d rather be playing.”
Shenango had not played a game since May 7 – 13 days – and it showed.
“I told our girls after the game that was not the Shenango team I’ve seen all season,” said head coach Amy Delaney.
Burgettstown struck quickly, scoring twice in the first inning. The first two batters – center fielder Cassie Carnes and shortstop Caley Ritts – set the tone. Carnes reached on an error, stole second base and scored on Ritts’ single to left. Ritts went to third when Shenango threw home attempting to get Carnes and scored on a sacrifice fly by Sam Scoppel.
“Getting that lead was huge,” said Deer. “We feed off that. We were able to relax and play our game.”
Burgettstown put runners in scoring position in the next three innings but Shenango starter Macy Rubin wiggled out of it. She wouldn’t in the fifth.
Burgettstown erupted for five runs and six hits, the key blow coming on a two-run double by catcher Bryanna Lonick to the left field fence, to take a commanding 7-0 lead.
“It felt good coming off the bat,” said Lonick. “The girls got on base in front of me. They did their job.”
Lonick scored on a groundout before Emily Wilson and Jordan Cullison knocked in runs with back-to-back doubles.
“The nice thing about softball is that there is no clock,” said Delaney. “You can keep chipping away.”
There is an inning limit though. While Shenango pushed across two runs in the bottom of the fifth to cut the Burgettstown lead to 7-2, it would be the only time the Wildcats scored. Burgettstown added one for the road in the sixth on an RBI groundout by Tarr.
Tarr held Shenango to four hits, struck out five and walked one. She retired 12 of the first 14 and the defense behind her was flawless.
“We did some good things with our bats,” Deer said. “Kate pitched a strong game and the defense was good. It’s a long road and we’re guaranteed two more games. We have to keep playing with an attitude.”