WEXFORD, Pa. – A year ahead of schedule.
(Photo of DCC’s Riley Assalone. Photo by Mike Schnelle. For more of Schnelle’s work click here)
That is the outlook DuBois Central Catholic manager George Heigel took after his team lost 5-2 to WPIAL champion West Greene in the PIAA Class A semifinals Monday at North Allegheny High School.
“Frankly, at the beginning of the year, I thought we were a year away,” Heigel said. “I’ve got three nice freshmen kids coming in. I lose my third baseman (Stephanie Rossi and my rightfielder (Tessa Sayers), but I think we are going to be in fine shape next year. When you can bring back Riley Assalone and you bring back your batter (catcher Jordy Frank and Assalone), you are in good shape. The junior class is real strong, and I have a nice freshman class coming in. I think we will try to beef up our schedule next year, too, get some of those games we probably should have had this year. But it worked out. We went to the western final. Who is going to complain about that?”
No one should complain about what has to be considered the greatest season in DCC softball history.
The loss Monday was the first of the season for the Lady Cardinals versus 24 wins, and they won their second District 9 title in the past three season while advancing just a game short of playing for a state title.
“My kids played really hard all year long,” Heigel said. “It was a tough year. I told the kids, life isn’t usually like 24 wins in a season. You lose, and your learn from losing. We didn’t get an opportunity to learn from losing, but we did get a chance to play a couple of close games in the district tournament. I think that did really help us out.”
One bad inning did DCC in Monday.
The Lady Cardinals shook off a leadoff home run by West Greene’s McKenna Lampe in the bottom of the first inning to take a 2-1 lead into the fifth.
But a bloop base hit by Mackenzie Carpenter followed by a walk to pinch-hitter Shelby Morris opened the floodgates for West Greene, who scored four times in the inning to take control of the game.
It was the second time in three games the Pioneers had a big fifth inning against a District 9 opponent, as they scored nine in the fifth against Clarion in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs after leading by just a run, 3-2, going to the fifth in that game.
“I think it’s like them not wanting me to fall over dead,” West Greene manager Bill Simms joked. “I think it’s just a testament to our girls hitting better pitches the third time through the order. I think it only helps that we see it better and that we are trying to hit better spots.”
Heigel believes his team made a couple of bad decisions on defense in the inning throwing the ball to the plate instead of second allowing West Greene to grab an extra base.
“I think there were a couple of balls we let drop,” Heigel said. “And twice our outfield didn’t execute on throws. They came home wit the ball and allowed a base hit to turn into a double. I think we gave them two runs in that regard. But that’s a really good team. They should be proud of that team.”
A two-run single by Madison Lampe proved to be the big hit of the inning breaking a two-all tie.
“She’s hitting .600 for a reason,” Simms said. “When she goes deeper in the count, she settles down more and concentrates harder. I think she did a great job for us today.”
DCC scored both of its runs in the fourth inning, but the inning could have been much bigger for the Lady Cardinals.
A leadoff triple by Jordy Frank was followed by a game-tying single to left by Riley Assalone. Ashley Wruble and Rossi then followed with base hits to load the bases with no outs.
But Alyssa Bittner hit a comebacker to the circle with Assalone thrown out at the plate before Sayers drew a bases-loaded walk on a full-count pitch to give DCC the lead.
But Caitlin Drahushak hit into another fielder’s choice with a runner erased at home, and Libby Maurer popped out to end the inning.
“We had the opportunity but didn’t get a clutch hit like we normally do,” Heigel said. “We needed a clutch hit in that fourth inning, and we just didn’t get it.”
Simms thought that might have been the turning point in the game.
“It was huge to get out of there cheap with only two runs,” the West Greene headman said. “We are pretty good defensively and played a pretty clean game today.”
West Greene will take on District 11 champion Williams Valley in the title game at 10 a.m. Thursday at Penn State.
“We knew we were going to have a very, very special group for us,” Simms said. “We thought if we weren’t playing for a WPIAL championship with this group that it was a failure on us, the coaching staff. Whenever we got in their against Chartiers-Houston and made it happen (win the WPIAL title), this has all been gravy since. Did I see a PIAA final? No. but we will take it.”
- Heigel thought the strike zone affected Assalone, who gave up five earned runs after giving up just one in her previous 70 innings of work.“Two things,” Heigel said when asked about Assalone. “No. 1, her riser, they weren’t baiting on it and No. 2, the umpire wasn’t giving it to her at the shoulders. In District 9 they talk about the armpit and down. A point of emphasis going into the season was the armpit and down. The strike zone was supposed to be a little higher this year. That didn’t come to fruition today/ We didn’t get the call. But that had nothing to do with the end result of the game. But it would have been nice to get some call right at the armpit. We didn’t get that. She’s effective when they fish, and they knew they didn’t have to fish because he wasn’t calling anything above the belt.”
- Both coaches talked about McKenna Lampe’s leadoff home run with Heigel marveling at how she crushed an Assalone fastball and Simms talking about the lift it gave his team.“I think it was huge,” Simms said. “If you heard that roar, I don’t know if that’s the loudest roar in (Class A) history or not, but we had a lot of people here. Send the ball out to them, that’s for sure.
- West Greene had a great crowd, easily over 300 or 400 people from the tiny Greene County school district located near Waynesburg. The Pioneers aren’t usually a factor in the WPIAL, but the softball team won its first-ever WPIAL title this year beating perennial powerhouse Chartiers-Houston in the title game.
- Don’t be surprised if you see these teams meet again next year. DCC loses the two seniors Heigel talked about, while West Greene loses just one. In fact, the Pioneers started five freshmen and three sophomores.
WEST GREENE 5, DUBOIS CENTRAL CATHOLIC 2
Score by Innings
DuBois Central 000 200 0 – 2
West Greene 100 040 x – 5
DDCC – 2
Player, Pos, AB, R, H, RBI
Macey Hanes cf 4000, Jordy Frank c 3110, Riley Assalone p 3031, Ashley Wruble 2b 2100, Stephanie Rossi 3b 3020, Alyssa Bittner 1b 3000, Tessa Sayers rf 2001, Caitlin Drahushak dp 3000, Madi Nasuti lf 0000, Libby Maurer ss 3000. Totals 26-2-6-2.
West Greene 5
Player, Pos, AB, R, H, RBI
McKenna Lampe cf 4232, Madison Lampe 3b 4112, Madison Renner p 3011, Emily Goodwin cr 0000, Bailey Bennington ss 3000, Kaitlyn Rizor 2b 3020, Lexie Mooney 1b 3020, Linzee Stover lf 3000, Mackenzie Carpenter 2110, Makenzie Thomas dp 2000, Shelby Morris c 0000, Brianna Goodwin cr 0100. Totals 27-5-10-5.
LOB – DCC 5. West Greene 6. DP – West Greene 1. 2B – Rizor. 3B – Frank. HR – McKenna Lampe. SB – McKenna Lampe, Madison Lampe, Rizor.
Riley Assalone – 6 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Madison Renner – 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
Winning pitcher – Madison Renner
Losing pitcher – Riley Assalone