Jesse Pugh’s 2 homers power Armstrong softball past Franklin Regional

Thursday, April 22, 2021 | 8:15 PM

Frustrated that she struck out in her previous at-bat, Jesse Pugh came to the plate with vexation in the top of the fifth.

There was some angry aluminum awaiting Franklin Regional senior pitcher Makinzie DeRiggi.

With a mighty swing, the freshman slugger from Armstrong sent a moon shot to deep center — way, way back — nearly reaching the tennis courts at Franklin Regional. The first of her two, two-run home runs sent the River Hawks on their way to a 9-2 victory over the host Panthers in a Section 1-5A softball game Thursday in chilly Murrysville.

“I really got the bat on that one,” Pugh said. “It was solid, and I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it.”

Her second homer, which went to right in the sixth, did reach the tennis courts.

“I was in a little slump last game,” Pugh said, “so it was nice to hit the ball like that.”

It was the fifth homer of the season for Pugh, who went 3 for 4 with five RBIs for first-place Armstrong (8-2, 6-1), which has won five of six and swept Franklin Regional (4-4, 3-4).

“We feel like we have a bright future in our program because of players like Jesse,” Armstrong coach Doug Flanders said. “We jumped on them early, and we showed we can all hit, 1 through 9.”

The Panthers, who had won four of five, showed improvement over a 17-2, four-inning loss to the River Hawks earlier in the season.

Pugh had three hits in that game, part of an 18-hit attack.

This time, sophomore Carli Ramchandran homered, and senior Kamaria Kelly and junior Alisa Kane had two hits each for the Panthers.

“They have some nice, young talent,” Franklin Regional coach Jim Armstrong said. “They are going to be a team to be reckoned with for a few years down the road.”

Another freshman, Emma Paul, had a double and three RBIs for the River Hawks. Her two-run double off the fence in the second gave the River Hawks a 4-0 lead.

Pugh’s first homer extended the advantage to 6-0 in the fifth before the Panthers finally got on the board in the bottom of the inning on an infield single by sophomore Madison Nguyen.

But a three-run sixth allowed Armstrong to add plenty of insurance. Paul delivered a sacrifice fly for her third RBI, and Pugh homered again for a 9-1 lead.

“We’re still trying to find our way,” coach Armstrong said. “We’re a young team, too. We need to clean up our defense a little bit. We’ve been doing some good things lately, but we need to be more consistent. Our girls are learning.”

The River Hawks used three pitchers in senior Julia Hetrick, freshman Madison Baker and sophomore Cameron Sprankle. Hetrick earned the win.

With the bases loaded in the fifth, Sprankle used a rise ball to strike out junior Kamryn Marcus to again quash the Panthers. Marcus later doubled.

Franklin Regional left 12 on base and committed four errors.

A solid defensive performance also propelled the River Hawks. Sophomore Emma Smerick made a one-handed snag in right with the Panthers threatening with two on in the third.

Senior Sara Cowell hit a line drive with the bases loaded in the fourth, but it led to a 3-4 double play.

“We preach air-tight defense,” Flanders said. “Our girls made some nice plays.

Junior Mackenzie Egley had two hits, including a double, for Armstrong. Sophomore Cassidy Adams also doubled.

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

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