Greensburg Central Catholic holds off OLSH to advance to PIAA softball playoffs

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Tuesday, May 30, 2023 | 8:55 PM


In a win-or-go-home scenario Tuesday at Gateway, the Greensburg Central Catholic softball team survived.

The Centurions bounced back from last week’s WPIAL Class 2A semifinal loss to No. 1 Neshannock with a 7-6 victory over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in a battle for third place where only the winner earned a berth to the PIAA tournament.

“After the Neshannock game, we let it go and started to refocus for this one,” GCC coach Mike Gaffney said. “We had a couple really good days of practice. It was a little tough with the holidays in there, but the girls were ready to go today. They knew what they had to do to earn a trip to states.”

The Centurions improved to 14-3 overall and will turn their attention to a PIAA first-round matchup against District 9 champion Cranberry on Monday at a site and time to be determined.

GCC is in the PIAA playoffs for the second year in a row. Last year, while in Class A, the Centurions traveled battled District 9 champ DuBois Central Catholic before losing 4-2.

“These girls have been there before, and they know what to expect,” Gaffney said. “They will play anybody, and we’ll go up there Monday and give it our best shot.”

OLSH concluded its season at 14-5.

“It was all about the positives after the game,” OLSH head coach David Quinn said. “The girls were one of four teams left (in WPIAL Class 2A). This team has helped continue tradition. We made the playoffs for the sixth year in a row. It’s been an upswing from Day One all the way to the semifinals the last two years. The girls are blessed. A lot of teams wished they were here today playing for a shot at states. I told them that they need to feel good about themselves. It is pretty emotional, but they should leave this field with their heads held high.”

GCC built a 7-4 lead heading into the sixth. OLSH closed the gap to two in the sixth as Ali Domachowski singled to lead off and later scored on a groundout by Ava Ciummo.

Things looked good for the Chargers in the seventh as they tried to come all the way back.

Juliette Vybiral got things started with a walk off Centurions senior starter Emma Henry before Leann Walzer singled to put two runners on.

Morgan O’Brien, who went 3 for 4 with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs, recorded one of those doubles to drive in Vybiral and send Walzer to third with still no one out.

But Henry regrouped and struck out cleanup hitter Justena Giles and induced Domachowski to pop up to second base.

Still a hit away from tying the score, Lilli Wamsley came to the plate looking for another hit.

But Henry didn’t let the GCC lead slip away, striking out Wamsley to end the threat and the game.

“We had got to that point in the seventh inning where we got that first out, and I looked at Emma, and she shook her head and was fine to continue,” Gaffney said. “When we got two outs and two strikes on (Wamsley), I knew Emma was going to go high. It was her best pitch, and it worked. I knew (Wamsley) would swing, and it worked out for us.

“Emma’s been here for four years, and she’s helped put this program on the map. I wasn’t going to take her out. I was going to ride with her all day long.”

Henry gave up nine hits, and all six OLSH runs were earned. She struck out four and walked just one.

“I had to just get all the what-ifs out of my mind in that (seventh inning),” Henry said. “I just had to take a deep breath and go pitch by pitch.

“This game, we wanted to get back with a win, and we knew that we had to win if we were to continue our season. Now, we have a lot of momentum for states.”

“I thought we had (Henry) there in the seventh,” Quinn said. “But she made the pitches she needed down the stretch, and we didn’t get that final clutch hit or two we needed.”

Giles doubled home a run for OLSH as part of a three-run third inning.

GCC finished the game with 12 hits off Giles, the starter, and Wamsley in relief.

Macee Magill had four singles among those 12 hits. She drove in a run and scored another.

Henry helped herself with two hits, an RBI and a run scored, and Erica Rodriguez, Grace Kindel and Isabella Marquez drove in runs.

“Everyone contributed to this win, and we really supported each other,” Henry said. “That’s what we needed, and now we are moving on.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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