Canon-McMillan wins PIAA softball title
Before Neshaminy took to the field to compete in the PIAA Quad-A softball championship game, the Redskins did a pre-game dance much like football players in the movie “Remember The Titans.”
Canon-McMillan shortstop Linda Rush was not offended by the routine. The freshman said she wanted to join them. “They looked like they were having fun,” she said. “I thought it was cool.”
Rush, however, ended the contest with her own little celebratory jig. She socked a two-run homer in the 12th inning, giving the Lady Macs a 4-3 triumph over Neshaminy as well as their first state title in softball.
“This is crazy,” said Rush, who moved into her starting position when Veronica Rothka suffered a knee injury during the indoor soccer season and could not play her senior season. “I don’t know if I could ever top this.”
Rush is certain that she doesn’t want to relive the drama of the extra-inning affair. “It was so stressful,” she said.
Alayna Astuto agreed, emphasizing is was ‘very, very stressful.’ But, she said that you push through it.
“It just kept going on and on and on. It was hard, but you just have to keep going strong,” said the senior, who will play at Waynesburg next year.
“But you train a lot. You have to keep pushing, and it paid off.
Using all five of her different pitches, Astuto hurled a no-hitter until the 10th inning, when the game went to the international tiebreaker. To snap a scoreless fray, a runner is placed on second base to start the extra frame.
Meanwhile, Astuto remained collected. She struck out 18 and scattered four hits.
“(Alayna) was giving me no indication that she was tired,” said CM manager Michelle Moeller. “She collected herself.
“She’s a great pitcher, but we always talk about that. Don’t expect (strikeouts) to happen; expect the ball to be put in play, so that you’re prepared for that to happen.”
While Astuto was keeping the Redskins hitless through regulation, the Lady Macs could not make anything happen on the two hits they tagged by Rush and Tara Fowler but in the top of the sixth, Abby Bellaire reached base when the third strike was dropped. She moved to second on Yaszmin Kotar’s sacrifice and to third on a fly ball to cent by Maddie Engel. Alas, she was stranded.
CM scored the first run of the game in the 10th. Olivia Lorusso started at second base. She moved to third on Giorgiana’ Zeremenko’s fly ball to center and scored on Fowler’s grounder to shortstop.
Neshaminy came back with the equalizer. Jen Walker’s base hit moved Erica Mohan to third. Mohan scored on Selina Alicea’s single to left.
In the 11th, Taylor Bruno scored after sacrifices by Bellaire and Kotar. But again, the Redskins replied when Lauren Quense doubled home Mackensie Compton.
That set the stage for Rush.
“I was thinking, ‘I need to hit this. I need to put the ball in play.’ Thank God I did.”
Astuto wasn’t surprised Rush pulled through for the Lady Macs.
“She always steps up. I love her to death. She’s great. Everything she does is perfect.”
But the game would not end so perfectly. Neshaminy came back in its half of the frame, getting one run back on a double by Walker. Astuto, however, struck out the next batter and ended the game with a ground out to third, stranding Walker.
Although it was one of the longest PIAA finals, it was nonetheless memorable for the Lady Macs as it marked the first state crown in the softball program’s history.
“Boy did they stay and battle,” Moeller said. “I know they were getting tired. But they never gave up.
“We hung in there,” agreed Astuto. “This is the only way to go out. To win it all. We’ll treasure this forever. I know I’ll never forget this day.”
The Lady Macs finished 25-1 overall. In addition to Astuto, they graduated Kotar, Maddie Engel and Kayla Kiger.