Banner season peaks with WPIAL title for Bethel Park softball

Saturday, June 12, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Bethel Park’s softball team ended its WPIAL season on the highest of high notes.

The Black Hawks reeled in the Class 6A title June 3 with a 9-2 win against Canon-McMillan in the championship game at Cal U.’s Lilley Field.

Then came the grim, unfathomable low note.

Four days later, the Black Hawks lost for the first time all year in the first round of the PIAA playoffs, stumbling against Penn Manor, 4-1, at Norwin.

Bethel Park quietly punched out only three hits and had few real scoring chances.

The Black Hawks, who had averaged 10.4 runs per game, finished 18-1 overall.

In the WPIAL final, Bethel Park catcher Sandra Soltes provided enough offense to almost singlehandedly lead her team to the first softball title in school history.

Her offensive barrage began with a bases-loaded home run in the bottom of the first. It has become known as the “Soltes Slam.”

Following two walks and a hit batter, Soltes blasted the round-tripper over the left field fence to lift the Black Hawks to an early 4-0 lead.

“It was such an experience for the team and our community to make history as we earned our first WPIAL championship,” coach Heather Semplice-Scott said. “I want to thank everyone in the community and school district for all their support throughout the season. It means so much to our team to have such a following. We greatly appreciate it.

“We worked all season for this game. Going into the game, we were relaxed and composed. This was one of our best defensive games all season. It came at the right time.”

The top-seeded Black Hawks rolled triple 9’s in the WPIAL playoffs, scoring nine times in victories against Baldwin, Pine-Richland and C-M.

“I am so proud of our performance at the WPIAL championship,” said BP assistant Donna DeCarlo. “I was a little concerned about how the rain delay would affect (the players). There was nothing to worry about. They were dancing and singing in the dugout and remained positive the entire time. They were excited to see how many Bethel Park fans were there waiting in the rain with them.

“This group showed no negativity. Once the game started, they were ready to play. Our bench players were also a big reason the team came away with a victory. They cheered from the first pitch until the last out. It was a wonderful day and one that each of us will remember forever.”

Soltes’ first-inning slam took most of the intrigue out of the WPIAL final and provided all the runs needed for Delaney Nagy, a right-handed senior pitcher.

“That was definitely the best performance of my career,” Soltes said. “I thought I played really well and did my job to help us win the championship. Our team played lights out throughout the WPIAL playoffs. We went into each game wanting to win with as many runs as we could score. Ironically, we scored nine runs in every game.”

Nagy, a UConn recruit, limited Canon-McMillan to the two runs — none after the fourth inning — on six hits.

“I do think she is one of the best pitchers in the WPIAL,” Semplice-Scott said. “Regardless of the situation, Delaney is a leader in the circle. She really knows how to keep her composure. She has a great attitude and the team feeds off that.”

Nagy induced 13 ground outs and retired eight of the final nine batters she faced.

“I am beyond proud of this team and how we all play selflessly to help each other,” Delaney said. “Our dedication and determination are unlike any other, and I am glad to be a part of such an outstanding group.

“Our team came into the game with solid defense and offense. I am grateful for the talent and hard work of the defense. They played great and were ready on every pitch. Offensively, I’m glad we all came in with the mindset of hitting the pitches that we wanted at the right times. We prepared for the playoffs and every game with the mindset of going out there and playing our game.”

Nagy wrapped up her year with a 16-1 record. In WPIAL action, she faced 389 batters and allowed only 61 hits, 28 runs and 19 walks while posting a 1.75 ERA.

Soltes, a Pitt recruit, picked a great time to enjoy her best-ever high school performance, going 3 for 4 with two home runs, a single, three runs scored and eight — yes, eight — RBIs.

“Sandra’s performance was unbelievable,” Semplice-Scott said. “The power she brought to the plate set the tone to the game. Sandra calls the pitches for us, and we have 100% confidence in her ability to call the game.

“Pitt will be gaining a great young lady. Sandra is a hard-working, driven and dedicated player. She will be successful (at Pitt) as long as she continues to have the same work ethic and positive attitude that she’s had for us.”

It was the second time this season Soltes, a junior, clouted two homers in a game, having also achieved the feat against South Fayette. Soltes had a .500 batting average, .587 on-base percentage and eight home runs this season.

“I was so happy for Sandra,” said DeCarlo after the WPIAL final. “She is such a mature, hard-working athlete who stays positive no matter what the situation is. Sandra is a terrific role model and team leader, and her incredible offensive day was well-deserved.”

The BP girls racked up staggering offensive numbers in 2021, led by senior shortstop Reagan Milliken, who will continue her career at Ohio State. Milliken finished first on the team with a .660 batting average, .712 on-base percentage, 33 hits, 11 home runs and 37 RBIs.

Georgetown recruit Gianna Sciullo, a left-handed senior first baseman, hit .476 with 28 RBIs and a team-high 10 doubles. Junior second baseman Delaney Sierka drew the most walks (13) on the team to go along with her .312 BA.

Nagy, who has tossed three no-hitters in her career including one in 2021, chipped in offensively with a .358 batting average and three HRs.

The Black Hawks’ outfield proved to be outstanding all season long.

Seton Hall recruit Lauren Caye, a senior center fielder, had a .453 BA and led the club in runs scored (31). Junior right fielder Abby Quickel hit .380. Junior left fielder Ali Sniegocki was next at .340.

Sniegocki (11), Caye (10) and Quickel (9) accounted for 30 stolen bases between them. Quickel, normally an infielder, moved into the outfield this spring.

Defensively, Bethel Park committed just 15 errors in its first 18 games, and Sciullo’s fielding percentage was a perfect 1,000. Senior third baseman Samantha Stephenson was a starter in the infield, along with Sciullo, Sierka and Milliken.

Bethel Park breezed to first place in Section 1, outscored opponents 188-43, reached double digits nine times, scored nine runs in five games and held 12 teams to two runs or less.

“Ever since our middle school years together, we all knew this exact team was going to be special in high school,” Soltes said. “The majority of us played 8U together and grew up playing with or against each other. And knowing we all wanted (a WPIAL title) from the beginning is such a huge accomplishment.”

Bethel Park defeated the Big Macs twice during the regular season, including an 18-4 rout in mid-April.

“After playing them a few times, I knew they had an idea of what I’d be throwing,” Nagy said. “I came (into the game) with the mindset that I had to impeccably spot every pitch on the corner. I felt good during warmups and knew I had a variety of pitches to throw.

“Depending on the batter, I mix my pitches. Having a variety is great because if a team is hitting one pitch, I can use another as a go-to that day.

Nagy continued: “Winning the WPIAL title was amazing. All of our hard work, determination and preparation was (geared) for that moment.”

Bethel Park also advanced to the WPIAL finals in 1981 against North Hills, 1987 versus Montour and 1994 against Baldwin.


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