SCRANTON – The matchup was the same as the last two years.
The Pittston Area softball team was not.
The Lady Patriots scored eight times in the first two innings and got 10 hits from the top four spots in the batting order Wednesday while pounding defending champion Abington Heights, 13-2, in a District 2-11 Class 5A Subregional championship game at the University of Scranton’s Magis Field.
Pittston Area used the win to avenge losses to Abington Heights in 2016 and 2017 district finals and claim its first district softball championship.
“Last year’s team, we started a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Pittston Area coach Vito Quaglia said. “This year, those kids are sophomores and juniors, so I think that year under their belt and their maturity help.”
Pittston Area will return to the same University of Scranton field at 4 p.m. Monday to open the state tournament against West Chester Henderson, the fourth-place team from District 1.
The Lady Patriots pounded the ball and made sure the Lady Comets paid for defensive mistakes during their breakout offensive performance.
“The first time we were playing for a championship, (two) years ago, the program was turning around and I think we were nervous,” Quaglia said. “Last year, we were a little bit more comfortable.
“And, this time, I thought some of the kids who have been through it three times played very loose.”
Pittston Area had scored just one run in each of its last three games, including the 1-0 semifinal win over Wallenpaupack, and had managed five runs total in its previous four.
The Lady Patriots scored twice in the first inning and six more times in the second.
Gabby Para and Lexi Felinski had three hits each in the first two spots in the batting order. Para doubled, scored twice and drove in a run. Felinski doubled and scored four runs.
Alexa McHugh and Nina Cencetti, who also combined to handle the pitching duties, each had two hits and drove in two runs in the next two spots. McHugh doubled and scored three runs. Cencetti, the winning pitcher, scored once.
“Those kids have done a great job all year,” Quaglia said.
They were not alone in fueling an offense that totaled 13 hits.
Shayla Williams doubled twice and drove in two runs.
The game turned into a romp because excellent defense combined with clutch pitching to repeatedly get Pittston Area out of trouble.
Abington Heights left the bases loaded without scoring in the first inning, then left runners on second and third in each of the next two innings. After four innings, the Lady Comets had already stranded nine runners, including seven in scoring position, while scoring just once.
Cencetti worked the first five innings, allowing just two runs (one earned) on seven hits and four walks while striking out one. McHugh finished up with two hitless, scoreless innings, striking out four and walking two.
“We really wanted it,” Felinski said. “It was payback.
“We were hungry.”
Felinski was hit by a pitch and scored the game’s first run.
Williams had a two-run double in the second inning when Para, Cencetti, and Madisyn Antal each drove in a run.
Pittston Area could not put Abington Heights away early on the 10-run rule, but the Lady Patriots kept hitting all game. They scored their last three runs in the seventh on a two-run double by McHugh and an RBI single by Cencetti.
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