Lorusso launches Lady Macs into state quarterfinals
Two-run homer highlights win over Hempfield
Olivia Lorusso proved the adage that baseball and softball are games of inches when Canon-McMillan edged Hempfield, 2-1, in a first-round PIAA playoff game at North Allegheny field.
The Lady Macs’ third baseman backed off the plate “four inches” and tagged the decisive blow—a two-run home run over the left-center field fence—against the Spartans.
“The times before, they had pitched me all inside,” Lorusso said. “I decided to move back off the plate about four inches because, I guarantee, they were going right inside on me.
“You get nervous when the game is as close as it is this time around. So I knew I needed to keep calmer than I usually do and stay relaxed. When the pitch came in, I let it fly.”
And that is all it takes in state playoff action says C-M manager Michelle Moeller. “One swing of the bat can change the outcome of a game,” she said. “It can make a difference and it was.”
While the opponent was quite familiar—the Big Macs had played Hempfield in last year’s WPIAL championship game as well as three times this season—the game had a completely different feel. Such one-run affairs were not foreign to Moeller, especially after her team had captured its second straight district title only four days prior.
“State playoffs are tight games between evenly matched teams,” said Moeller. “Playoff ball is tough, especially when you know your opponent like we do, having played them so many times.”
This season, the Lady Macs have faced Hempfield three times. They lost their opener, 17-6, back in April but blanked the Spartans, 5-0, on a perfect game from Alayna Astuto in the WPIAL semifinals. Plus, the game saw the return of one of Hempfield’s top hitter, Kasey Kolick.
“We knew she was coming back and we wanted to keep her at bay,” said Moeller. “But there were more big hitters to focus on.”
And those big sticks belonged to the Lady Macs, even though they mustered only four hits, two from Lorusso, against Hope Pehrson.
Two outs after Linda Rush had reached base on an error, Lorusso tagged her round-tripper. With Giorgiana Zeremenko, the heroine of the WPIAL final, on deck, Lorusso expected no free pass.
“They saw our line-up is all power hitters,” Lorusso said. “If you pitch out, there are not too many other options.
“But, we came to play because we felt Hempfield believed our wins were all flukes, especially with them having No. 33 (Kolick) back. Sure you don’t expect a perfect game like we had the last time we beat them but we felt we could beat them.”
Victory, however, was not assured after Lorusso’s long ball.
The Spartans left the bases loaded in the fourth but Kelly Mahoney popped out to Lorusso at third base to end that threat. In the sixth, the Spartans had runners on first and second with two outs but Michaela LeDonne flied out to left fielder Tara Fowler.
The Spartans also threatened to tie to the contest in the top of the seventh. After Taylor Kusma singled, Alaina Montgomery drilled a 3-2 pitch to the left-center field fence for a run-scoring double. She reached third on the relay throw to home plate but the threat and the game ended when Rush shagged a fly ball to shallow left.
In addition to Rush and Lorusso, Yaszmin Kotar and Fowler made standout catches on defenses for the Lady Macs. Astuto, who had three strikeouts and one walk, also made a fine grab of a pop-up in the seventh stanza.
With the win over Hempfield, the Lady Macs advanced to the state quarterfinals to face another familiar foe. Canon-McMillan (22-1) will battle North Allegheny (18-5) on June 6 at a site to be determined. The Tigers beat Dubois, 5-3, in their first-round state contest. The game is a rematch of the WPIAL title tilt won by the Lady Macs, 5-2, on May 30.