Pittston Area made an impressive debut in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association softball tournament.
After winning the District 2-11 Class 5A Subregional title for the first district or subregional championship in the sport the previous week, Pittston Area won its first-ever state tournament game and battled in the state quarterfinal that it lost by a single run.
“We told them there’s nothing to hang their heads about,” Pittston Area coach Vito Quaglia said following Thursday’s 1-0 loss to Solanco at Patriots Park in Allentown. “They’ve gone farther than any Pittston Area team has ever gone. They’re district champions. We’re really proud of them.
“The future’s bright and we’ll just keep battling. We had a great year.”
The Lady Patriots had opened state play Monday with a 10-2 romp over West Chester Henderson at the University of Scranton’s Magis Field.
Pittston Area 0
ALLENTOWN – Hanna Phillips threw a two-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts to lead Solanco past Pittston Area in a tense game to complete Thursday’s quadrupleheader at Patriots Park.
Solanco got hits from its first three batters in the bottom of the first, then Phillips made it hold up by only allowing two runners in the same inning once.
“She’s a great pitcher,” Pittston Area coach Vito Quaglia said. “We didn’t put the ball in play and they did.
“That’s the difference in the game; it’s 1-nothing.”
Aside from bunts, Pittston Area only hit five fair balls the entire game as Phillips moved the ball around in the strike zone and even effectively up out of it at times. She threw 75 of her 104 pitches for strikes.
After striking out four in the first 3 1/3, Phillips fanned 10 more over the final 3 2/3.
“I definitely got stronger,” Phillips said. “That’s usually what happens.”
Nina Cencetti and Alexa McHugh kept Pittston Area in the game when their pitching combined with error-free defense to hold the Southern Lancaster County school to one run.
McHugh also did what she could to try to break the shutout. She was the only Pittston Area player to reach base twice and had the team’s only extra-base hit with a double to the center-field fence, just missing a home run, on the first pitch of the fourth inning.
“Alexa puts that ball a foot higher and it’s a tie game,” Quaglia said. “It was three-quarters of the way up. You’re talking a difference of inches.”
Solanco’s game-winning hit got airborne more than enough, bouncing off the infield that Quaglia described as “pavement” and getting down the left-field line for a Liz Mowrer double.
Phillips had her team’s only other extra-base hit as part of a 2-for-3 effort at the plate.
The Patriots got Kaehler Kivler to third in the third inning when her bunt induced a Solanco error and two more bunts, by Bailey Loyack and Gabby Para, advanced her.
“We just didn’t do enough,” Quaglia said. “You have to get that hit in this kind of game.”
Lexi Felinski singled with one out in the sixth and McHugh followed with a walk.
McHugh pitched the last three innings, taking over with a runner in scoring position in the fourth and stranding her there. She gave up just one hit while striking out three and recording four of the other six outs on balls hit back to her.
Pittston Area 10
West Chester Henderson 2
SCRANTON – The top three Pittston Area hitters got on base and the rest of the Lady Patriots batting order made sure they did not stay there.
Gabby Para, Lexi Felinski and Alexa McHugh combined for nine hits and seven runs scored to lead Pittston Area to a comfortable win in the school’s state softball tournament debut.
Madisyn Antal drove in four runs, with the help of a three-run homer, while winning pitcher Nina Cencetti and Morgan Mesaris drove in two each.
The 15-hit effort came on the heels of a 13-2 win over Abington Heights in the District 2 championship game.
“We hit the ball all year and then we went into a little funk at the end of the year,” coach Vito Quaglia said. “After those last couple games where we didn’t hit, we basically told them, ‘just be yourselves. We know you can hit’.”
Para went 3-for-4 and scored twice from the leadoff spot. Felinski had a double and single while scoring three times and driving in a run. McHugh went 4-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
Cencetti allowed only two unearned runs and got herself out of trouble with a bases-loaded strikeout in the sixth.
“Nina did a great job again,” Quaglia said. “She’s a kid who hits her spots. She trusts her defense. She doesn’t try to go up there and do too much.”
The defense committed just one error in two state tournament games, but it led to two runs in the top of the second.
Antal, at third base, and freshman shortstop Tiara George each handled six chances against West Chester Henderson. Catcher Bailey Loyack threw out both runners that tried to steal on her early in the game.
Loyack’s efforts helped keep the Lady Patriots within two runs.
“She’s got a cannon back there,” Quaglia said.
McHugh added a tough back-hand catch of a line drive in the first inning.
The defense kept the game close until the offense got 10 hits in a walk in one stretch of 15 plate appearances between the third and fifth innings.
“Once someone gets a hit, we just keep hitting,” said McHugh, who had the third of five straight singles to get the scoring started. “It’s kind of like a spark plug.”
Antal put Pittston Area ahead to stay then added a three-run homer over the left-field fence in the fourth inning. Mesaris and Felinski doubled to the same part of the fence before after after Antal’s homer.
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