CALIFORNIA – When the Jefferson-Morgan High School softball team thinks about Thursday afternoon’s game against South Side Beaver, the shaky performance in the first inning will come to mind.
What should stand out more, though, is the missed opportunities after that.
In five of the final six innings, the Rockets put runners in scoring position and failed to get them home.
That led to a 5-3 loss to South Side Beaver in the semifinals of the WPIAL Class A playoffs at California University’s Lilley Field.
The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak and dropped Jefferson-Morgan (16-3) into the third-place game against Burgettstown (16-5) Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. The winner of that game will get a spot in the PIAA tournament; the loser’s season is over.
Jefferson-Morgan jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning but South Side Beaver changed the momentum by scoring five times in the bottom of the inning. The key blow was a three-run home run by Toni Yacoviello that made it 5-2.
“They beat us 5-2 in the first inning,” said J-M head coach Tony Barbetta, “and we won the rest of the game, 1-0. A couple of key hits? It is what it is.”
Jeff-Morgan, which shared the Section 2 title with Carmichaels, scored twice in the top of the first inning when Reagan Rush singled to lead off the game and Morgan Simkovic hit a two-run home run over the left-field fence one out later.
South Side Beaver answered in the bottom of the inning when Capri Sollinger-Kinsley walked to open the inning and came around to score on singles by Cheyenne Seik and Connor McGaffic. McKenna Smith beat out an infield single that scored Seik then Yacoviello launched her home run.
After that, Rockets’ starter Maddy Ludrosky did not allow a run and just five hits.
“That first inning was very important,” said South Side Beaver head coach Theresa Waxler. “If our kids are down by a couple of runs, they don’t quit. Home runs change everything. And our defense played really good.”
Which is why Jefferson-Morgan struggled to score the rest of the way.
The Rockets pushed across a run in the second with two outs. Autumn Tedrow singled and Morgan Gamble hit a wind-blown double to put Tedrow at third. Rush singled her in but Gamble was thrown out at the plate by a strong throw from left fielder Alexis Dhayer.
Kirsten Stoneking opened the third with a single to right for J-M and went to second on a single by Ludrosky one out later. But Smith, South Side Beaver’s starter, got the next two outs on a pop up to first and bouncer back to the mound.
In the fourth inning, J-M got Madison Dupont to third with one out. Gamble hit a grounder to third base and Yacoviello threw Dupont out at the plate.
In the fifth inning, Stoneking walked to start the inning but was stranded at second. Finally, in the sixth, Camryn Dugan made it to third base with two outs and Rush sent a liner to right field that Lacy Weible made a nice catch on to end the inning.
“We had our chances to tie the game,” said Barbetta. “If we had tied the game, that puts pressure on (South Side Beaver). We didn’t quit. Our girls will bounce back.”