Katie Armstrong strikes out 14 as Burrell blanks Waynesburg in WPIAL Class 3A third-place game

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 | 10:05 PM

The Burrell softball team used small ball to pick up its first run of Tuesday’s WPIAL Class 3A third-place game against Waynesburg Central at Gateway.

Sophomore Brae Jones led off with an infield single, was aggressive in moving to third on a sacrifice bunt from senior Alanna Miller and scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by sophomore Sabrina Hoover.

“That was one of the little things that often make up a win,” Miller said.

“Sometimes, it’s the big hits that make the difference, but the little bunts and the small hits can add up. I was really happy we were able to get that first run.”

That early run held up, as senior Katie Armstrong and the Bucs defense kept the Raiders off the scoreboard.

Armstrong gave up four hits, struck out 14, walked none and Burrell added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth for a 3-0 victory.

“This was big for us for our seeding to states and putting us in a better position,” Miller said.

“We really prepared well for this game, and it feels good to get the win and have momentum going into states.”

Both teams already had clinched berths in the state tournament. The Bucs (14-6) will face the District 6 champion — either Forest Hills or Juniata — in the first round Monday at a site and time to be determined.

The District 6 title game is Thursday at St. Francis (Pa.).

The Raiders (16-5), in the state playoffs for the first time since 2010, will travel to face District 10 champion Jamestown on Monday.

“This is a pretty busy week for us as we have the team banquet tomorrow, and awards ceremony Thursday and graduation Friday,” Waynesburg Central coach Jim Armstrong said.

“We’re going to get a few hours on the field tomorrow and Thursday.”

Tuesday’s win for Burrell was a bounce back from a tough 3-0 loss to No. 1 Avonworth in the semifinals May 23 at North Allegheny.

“It’s a great feeling to get back on track with a win and start to build that momentum for our first state playoff game,” Armstrong said.

“It will help as we continue to push each day. We want to keep going as far as possible.”

Burrell began the sixth inning when Armstrong reached on an infield single.

Abby Wilks, the courtesy runner for Armstrong, then moved to second on a fielder’s choice off the bat of sophomore Pyper Ferres.

Jones came up and hit a chopper to third. Waynesburg third baseman Abbi Davis threw toward first, but her attempt sailed high and to the fence down the right-field line. Both Wilks and Ferres scored on the error to give the Bucs a 3-0 advantage.

Waynesburg Central put two on with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Kendall Lemley, the Raiders starting pitcher, reached on a bunt single that ended Armstrong’s streak of 16 straight retired.

Dani Stockdale, who finished 2 for 3 with a double for Waynesburg, followed with a single to extend the threat.

But Armstrong fanned Raiders catcher Hannah Wood to end the inning.

Raiders cleanup hitter Kayleigh Varner singled to lead off the seventh and went to second on a sacrifice bunt from Emma Zehner.

But a pop-up to Armstrong and her 14th and final strikeout of the game wrapped up the victory.

“(Katie) is tough,” coach Armstrong said. “She bears down and doesn’t give you much to work with. We didn’t get to her until the end of the game. We knew what we were facing coming into the game.”

Armstrong’s 14 strikeouts give her 258 for the season.

“I felt really good today,” Armstrong said. “I was on. All my pitches were working. That definitely helped. Getting that early run in felt good for all of us. It helped settle me down more, and I just continued to pitch my game.”

Burrell totaled eight hits, and five of the eight were infield singles.

Both of sophomore catcher Bella Stewart’s hits reached the outfield.

Neither Armstrong or Lemley issued a walk.

“I am proud of the girls,” coach Armstrong said.

“I’ve been coaching high school softball for 28 years, and this is the first time I’ve ever coached in the state tournament. I appreciate that very much. These girls have worked hard and deserve this. We’ll be ready when Monday comes around.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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