CALIFORNIA –Thomas Jefferson sophomore pitcher Lacie Lautner was more than happy her team had a long layoff between a first round and quarterfinals of the WPIAL playoffs.
Lautner, the Jaguars’ top starting pitcher, led Thomas Jefferson to a first round victory over Knoch a week ago and used every minute of that time to her advantage. When Trinity and Uniontown faced one another Monday night for the right to face the Jaguars in the quarterfinals, Lautner was sitting in the stands taking notes on the Hillers’ hitters.
The analysis paid off Tuesday when the right-hander held Trinity to just four hits and struck out 10 to help Thomas Jefferson past the Hillers, 3-1, in a WPIAL Class AAA playoff quarterfinal game at California University’s Lilley Field.
The Jaguars (13-6) advance to the semifinals where they will face top-seeded Greensburg Salem (15-1) Thursday at a site and time to be determined. Meanwhile, Trinity’s season ends with a record of 16-3.
The Hillers did not record a hit until the top of the fifth inning and their lone run came in the seventh inning on a throwing error.
“I’ll have to ask them because I’d like to know,” Trinity head coach Shawn Gray said when asked why his hitters were so baffled by Lautner.
“I didn’t see her doing anything special out there. I don’t want to take anything away from her. She did really well, but she wasn’t overpowering or anything.”
Trinity trailed 3-0 heading to the top of the seventh inning when its offense gained life. Junior second baseman Madison Hornak led off with a bunt single. Lautner recorded a strikeout, and a ground ball to first advanced Hornak to second.
With two outs, junior third baseman Emily Smith hit a hard grounder to Jaguars second baseman Megan Fitzgerald, who had trouble fielding the ball and made an errant throw that allowed Hornak to score.
Junior shortstop Olivia Gray followed with a single to left field, but Lautner struck out junior Riley Riotta to end the game.
“(Lautner) did an unbelievable job,” Thomas Jefferson head coach Heidi Karcher said. Karcher is a former head coach at Peters Township.
“She was incredible, and she is always relaxed out there. She never crumbles under pressure and we knew what we had to throw at this team to win the game.”
The Hillers did not have a runner reach third base until the fifth inning when senior left fielder Jasmine Fuqua tried scoring from second on a base hit by Smith. She was thrown out at home plate. Trinity stranded just six runners on base and Lautner, using a fastball, curveball and changeup, had everything to do with the Hillers’ hitting woes.
“I knew I had to hit my spots, and I knew where they usually hit the ball,” Lautner said. “I thought it would be a good idea to go watch their game and taking notes definitely helped.”
The Jaguars scored a run in the first inning on a RBI double by left fielder Lauren Herazol before adding another in the third on a RBI double by designated hitter Emily Scheidter. Thomas Jefferson, which won just three games a year ago, added one more insurance run in the fourth.
“We couldn’t get the timely hits,” Gray said. “The balls that were hit hard went straight to defensive players. Our hitting hasn’t been there lately, and I think nerves may have something to do with that. We have a great group returning so I’m excited for next year.”
Elizabeth Forward 5, South Fayette 0: Lauren Matthews allowed just four hits as Elizabeth Forward defeated South Fayette, 5-0, in a WPIAL Class AAA playoff game at Baldwin High School.
Courtney Hrabosky had two hits and a double, driving in two runs for Elizabeth Forward (14-6), which scored all five of its runs in the top of the seventh inning.
Ashley Iagnemma took the loss for South Fayette, which finishes its season at 14-2.