Avonworth beats Southmoreland to repeat as WPIAL 3A softball champs

Thursday, June 1, 2023 | 2:51 PM

Southmoreland had a sendoff at school Thursday morning for the WPIAL 3A softball championship. Applause and support from teachers and students followed the team to the bus.

But Avonworth — annoying, thorn-in-their-side Avonworth — sent the Scotties home with another postseason loss.

Despite a positive start, the Scotties stumbled defensively and lost to the Antelopes for the fourth straight time in the playoffs, falling 5-1 in the title game at Cal (Pa.)’s Lilley Field.

“One of these years, maybe we’ll figure out the puzzle,” Southmoreland coach Todd Bunner said. “It’s like a kryptonite to Superman kind of thing.”

Junior pitcher Alivia Lantzy dialed in early, disarmed her opponent and led the top-seeded Antelopes (21-1) to back-to-back titles with 14 strikeouts and two walks in a three-hitter.

The Antelopes have won three titles in four seasons.

The No. 2 Scotties (17-3) struck out six times before they got their first hit. They were plagued by four errors and left the bases jammed in the third inning with a 1-0 lead.

Two of the Antelopes’ runs were unearned.

“We didn’t face them this year, but with Southmoreland, you always know who they are,” Avonworth coach Jenna Muncie said. “They are so good. We knew what they had coming back from last year.

“I don’t have enough good things to say about (Lantzy). She is a big-game pitcher and made adjustments when she needed to. She was absolutely amazing on the mound today.”

Avonworth, which does not have a senior on its roster (Southmoreland has one in Brynn Charnesky), posted its 10th straight win as sophomore Sydney Savatt, junior Leah Kuban and sophomore Emma Obersteiner each had two hits.

Kuban had a double, and freshman Mara Stetser tripled for Avonworth.

An infield single by junior Madie Brown and a walk to sophomore Taylor Doppleheuer set up the Scotties’ first run in the third.

Sophomore Makayla Etling sent a run-scoring single to right.

When the Scotties loaded the bases after a walk to junior Amarah McCutcheon, Lantzy forced a groundout to get out of the third.

“I figured out what I did wrong and got back into it,” Lantzy said. “My timing was off, but I got it back. I kept them off balance.”

Lantzy and McCutcheon are travel teammates.

Still, Southmoreland, which turned a double play in the second, frustrated the Antelopes in the third, avoiding serious trouble by working out of a bases-loaded jam.

Stetser tripled, and Brown, the losing pitcher, had two walks — one intentional — and hit a batter.

Junior Rylee Gray knocked in a run with a fielder’s choice to shallow center to tie it 1-1.

But junior Beatrix Pawilkowsky made a running catch in right, as a dangerous fly ball drifted toward the foul line, to limit the damage.

The teams wore identical uniform patterns — white jerseys and red pants — but Avonworth looked more the part of a champion after it took the lead.

The Antelopes took the lead for good in the fourth after Obersteiner singled, was sacrificed to second, moved to third on an error and scored on an RBI single by Savatt.

A three-run sixth put the game out of reach for the Scotties.

Stetser made it 3-1 with a sacrifice fly to center, and back-to-back singles by Savatt and Lantzy gave the Antelopes a 4-1 advantage.

Another error followed with two on, and it quickly became 5-1.

“We made a lot of uncharacteristic errors, and when you play a good team like that, you can’t do that,” Bunner said. “You can’t have chances and not take advantage of them. We didn’t cash in and left girls on base.

“(Lantzy) hits her spots well. They didn’t do anything we didn’t expect.”

The bottom three hitters in Avonworth’s order — Obersteiner, sophomore Abigail Brooks and Stetser — produced three hits, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI.

“Depth in the lineup comes in handy,” Lantzy said.

Brown had two hits for Southmoreland, which was seeking its first title since 2018. The Scotties had won nine games in a row.

Muncie said this title felt different compared to last year’s — and the one from 2019.

“The first time, there was that glow that came with it,” Muncie said. “To go back-to-back, that is really special.”

Avonworth blanked the Scotties, 3-0, in the semifinals last year, clipped them 3-2 in the third-place consolation in 2021, and won 3-2 in the 2019 quarterfinals.

Lantzy, who set down eight straight to end it, said the pressure to repeat motivated her team.

“Teams come after you after you win it,” she said. “It’s nice to win again and set the standard.”

Both teams will open the PIAA playoffs Monday.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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