WEXFORD – The WPIAL champion Neshannock High School girls softball team had to work a little harder, sweat a little more and play two more innings Monday than it did the last time the Lancers played Burgettstown.
This time, Burgettstown wasn’t in awe, was more determined and played much better defensively.
The bad news for Burgettstown was that Neshannock pitcher Madison Shaffer is still hard to hit and leadoff batter Marissa DeMatteo is still tough to get out.
Shaffer threw a five-hitter, and DeMatteo and Cassie Burrelli, the Nos. 1 and 2 hitters in the Neshannock lineup, combined for five runs and three extra-base hits as the Lancers ousted Burgettstown, 6-1, in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals at North Allegheny High School.
Neshannock (18-2) forged a 4-0 lead after three innings as DeMatteo and Burrelli played key roles in the fast start by scoring three runs. Burrelli then pushed across Neshannock’s final two runs with a home run that scored DeMatteo in the top of the seventh.
DeMatteo was 2-for-2 with a triple, two walks and three runs. Burrelli was 2-for-3 with a double, home run, two runs and three RBI.
“The top of that order is like Murderer’s Row,” Burgettstown coach Mark Derr said. “Those are tough outs. It seemed like (DeMatteo) was on base at least five times.”
Neshannock defeated Burgettstown 11-0 in the WPIAL semifinals last month, and this time the Lancers started quickly against Blue Devils pitcher Bryanna Lonick, the lone senior in the starting lineup. DeMatteo led off the game with a walk, moved to second on a bunt by Burrelli and scored on Shaffer’s single up the middle. Shaffer scored when Alex Fischel lined a double down the right-field line.
DeMatteo led off the third with a triple to center field and scored when Burrelli’s ground ball bounced over the third-base bag for a double. A wild pitch and groundout scored Burrelli and gave Neshannock the 4-0 lead.
“The first time we play Neshannock, we knew about their past, their state championship (in Class AA in 2012) and the runner-up finish (in Class A last year),” Deer said. “We were in awe before that game. We played with more confidence this time. We played a much better game. They had a few breaks go their way early with the double right down the line and a couple of line drives that we hit that were caught.”
Burgettstown ran itself out of two potential runs early in the game, which loomed large heading into the seventh inning. The Blue Devils’ Kate Tarr hit a long double to left centerfield to open the bottom of the second and pinch-hitter Emily Watson reached on a two-out infield single. But pinch-runner Darien Transue, made an aggressive turn at third on Watson’s single and was thrown out at the plate for the inning’s final out.
In the third, Cassie Carnes reached on a two-base error and moved to third on Caley Ritts’ second single of the game. But with one out, Lynock flied out to left and Carnes was doubled off third base.
Tarr replaced Lonick at pitcher in the fourth and threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings until Burrelli’s homer.
The Blue Devils scored their only run in the bottom of the seventh on a scary play. Morgan Ellek hit a deep drive that left fielder Morgan Lash and Burelli, the center fielder, chased and reached up to catch. Their arms crossed and both hit the turf hard as the ball rolled to the wall and Ellek raced home with an inside-the-park home run.
“That’s what you always worry about,” Neshannock coach Tracy Kimmel said. “You worry about somebody getting hurt.”
Lash and Burelli stayed in the game.
Neshannock advances to next week’s state semifinals while Burgettstown ends its season at 18-6 and looks to what should be a bright future. The Blue Devils started only one senior and two juniors against Neshannock.
“You have to think this is the start of something big,” Deer said. “We have a few eighth graders coming in who can really play ball.
“We still have to get better. We have to get better on the mound because we pitched behind in the count too often. And we have to get more disciplined at the plate. But I think our defense has been very good. That should be our strength. We started three sophomore outfielders who played a very good game.”