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June 8, 2012

PIAA CLASS A SOFTBALL: Lady Cats fall short in quarters

June 8, 2012 7:00 a.m. WEXFORD — Down two runs heading into the final inning against one of the state’s elite pitchers and softball programs would cause a lot of teams some trepidation.

Now imagine being in that position with just one out remaining.

All out panic, right?

Not for the Saegertown Lady Panthers.

Saegertown put together a valiant effort with two outs in the seventh inning and had the go ahead run on base. The Panthers, however, couldn’t finish it off as they fell to Chartiers-Houston, 4-3, in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals Thursday at North Allegheny High School.

The loss caps the best season in program history for the Lady Panthers, who won their first District 10 crown and state playoff game this season. They finish the year at 20-3.

Chartiers-Houston (25-1) advances to Monday’s PIAA Class A semifinals where it will face either Fannett Metal or Elk County Catholic at a site and time to be determined.

“They didn’t quit,” Saegertown coach Mark McKissock said. “It was like Union City (earlier in the season) all over again only at a different level.

“I’m just so proud of them. They didn’t give up and fought against a really good softball team.

“That was a very good team we just played … We played them neck and neck. A couple mistakes is what got us.”

It was three unearned runs in the third inning that proved to be the difference.

Kelli Durfresne led off the inning with a single for the Buccaneers. Megan Kraushaar followed with a bunt perfectly placed up the first base line that she legged out for a base hit. The throw got past Mirrissa Parker at first base allowing Durfresne to advance to third and Kraushaar to second.

Both runners came around to score an out later on a grounder by pitcher Kayla Briggs that took a bad hop and caromed off the glove of shortstop Belle Mazurik into left-center field, giving the Buccaneers a 2-0 lead.

Briggs scored the final run of the inning on a single by catcher Colby Miller.

“That’s what it comes down to in a state playoff game is mistakes,” McKissock said. “I think we did pretty well for the amount of hits we had. We just came up a little bit short.”

It was a big swing off the bat of Mazurik that got the Panthers on the board in the fourth inning and put some pressure on the Buccaneers.

Mazurik drove a line drive past a diving Durfresne to the fence in center field for an inside-the-park home run — the Panthers’ first hit of the game. Hallie Kirdahy reached next on an error, but Briggs worked out of the inning with her team still ahead 3-1.

Saegertown pulled even closer in the fifth inning. With one out, McKissock went to his bench and summoned freshman Mackensie Garris to the plate to pinch hit. Garris took the first pitch she saw and lined it to left-center for a single. Rachel DiBartolomeo earned a two-out walk, moving pinch runner Mikayla Newman to second base.

Newman scored on a single by Arianna Hanley to cut the Buccaneers lead to 3-2.

Chartiers-Houston got the run back in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI double by Briggs, bringing the Panthers to the 4-2 deficit heading into the final frame.

“We’ve been here before,” McKissock yelled to his team in the dugout prior to the seventh inning. “We’ve done this before. Let’s go.”

Freshman Jessica Tomiczek led off the inning and fought her way to a 3-2 count before flying out to the right fielder for the first out. Briggs then recorded her fourth strikeout of the game to put the Buccaneers an out away from the state semifinals.

“We’re down to one out,” McKissock said. “Becca Snyder gets a hit. Then we’re looking for pitches, trying to get anything we could get out of them and ended up making it exciting.”

Snyder snuck a single up the middle. DiBartolomeo followed with a single and Hanley came up with another big RBI, plating Snyder to pull Saegertown to within one, 4-3. DiBartolomeo tried to advance to third on Hanley’s hit, but was thrown out at third for the final out.

“When we get down, we definitely take it into second gear,” Hanley said. “We just make things happen. We have heart. Everyone loves playing softball on this team and they don’t want to be anywhere else.

“Everyone wants to move on and we really, really wanted to. We just fell short.”

It was still a banner year for the Panthers — who graduate Mazurik, Parker and Kirdahy. But Hanley admits it’s going to take some time for the Panthers to realize just what kind of season they had.

“Right now it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re not going to get to play another softball game,’” Hanley said. “But once we get home we’ll realize, ‘Wow. Top eight in the state.’ I never would have fathomed coming this far.”

Hanley finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Miller, Durfresne and Kassie Kesneck had two hits each for the Buccaneers.

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