Kiski Area defeats Plum, clinches WPIAL playoff berth

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Wednesday, April 27, 2022 | 8:25 PM


The Kiski Area softball team missed the WPIAL playoffs in 2019 and ‘21 after a run to the quarterfinals in ‘18.

But the Cavaliers have assured themselves a return to the postseason this spring.

They solidified their positioning in the Section 1-5A standings and clinched Wednesday at home against rival Plum.

Kiski Area broke open a tie with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth and added some insurance with three more in the sixth en route to a 6-1 victory over the Mustangs.

“I think we are in a really good spot,” said senior Ashlee Bair, a La Roche commit who smacked her first high school home run, a two-run shot in the sixth.

“We started off the season kind of slow, but we’ve really ramped it up in the past couple of weeks and really focused on what we needed to do to clinch a spot in the playoffs.”

The win put Kiski Area at 6-5 overall and 6-3 in the section. The Cavaliers, who have won two straight after Monday’s 8-0 loss to section leader Armstrong (8-2, 6-0), originally were scheduled to play Penn Hills on Friday, but with the Indians refusing to play Kiski Area in any sports this spring, the game goes down as a forfeit win.

The Cavaliers instead will travel to Valley on Friday at 5 p.m. for a nonsection game.

Bair’s home run was a part of a six-hit effort off Plum starter Makenzie Lang that included the winning single from senior Isabel Ramos’ with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth.

Junior Mackenzie Favero, who scored three runs from her leadoff position in the batting order, reach on an error with one out in the fifth. After Lang struck out Madison Leith for the second out, Bair drew a walk, one of six free passes Lang would issue in the game. Junior Hannah Simpson drew a second walk to load the bases, setting the stage for Ramos, who had just been inserted into right field and was batting for the first time in the game.

Ramos didn’t flinch in her opportunity as she made contact and blooped the ball into shallow right field. Favero and Bair scored to make it 3-1.

“It felt so good to get this win because (Plum) beat us twice last year and kind of knocked us out of the playoffs,” said Favero, who had three hits, including a home run, and three RBI in Kiski’s 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Mustangs on April 6.

“We always talk about focusing on keeping locked in the whole game and not getting down. We showed patience and trusted that we would get a couple of more runs, and we did that.”

Both of Kiski’s fifth-inning runs were unearned. Lang, also Plum’s leading hitter, gave up four earned runs and walked six while striking out six.

Leith, who was 0 for 2 with a sacrifice bunt in her first three plate appearances, delivered a run-scoring single for the Cavaliers in the sixth and came around to score on the Bair home run.

The six runs helped junior Hannah Simpson pick up her fourth win of the season (4-5). The Seton Hill commit gave up five hits and walked four while striking out seven over seven innings.

She has 56 strikeouts against just 11 walks in 55 innings. Plum’s lone run, an RBI single off the bat of freshman catcher Dani Pici in the top of the first, was unearned, so Simpson was able to lower her ERA to 2.80.

The Kiski Area defense turned double plays in the first and fifth innings, and Plum left runners in scoring position in the second and third frames.

“I am definitely a movement pitcher, so I aim to throw batters off,” Simpson said.

“That was working pretty well today on my side. My defense did a great job behind me and got outs when we needed them. This is a total team effort at the plate and on defense.”

The Mustangs loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh on an error, a walk and a fielder’s choice that didn’t yield an out. But Simpson got Plum left fielder Taylor Lorish to pop out to Bair at second for the final out.

Pici added a single in the fifth and finished 2 for 4. She is batting .412 on the season (14 for 34).

Lang singled in the first and walked three times, raising her average to .423 (11 for 26).

Plum fell to 3-9 overall and 3-5 in section play. The Mustangs, who are still in the playoff hunt in Section 1, will host Armstrong on Friday.

“We put some runners on and missed some chances, but (Simpson) pitched a pretty good game,” Plum coach Phil DiLonardo said. “You have to give her credit. We’re just still looking for that clutch hit. That has been kind of a storyline all year. But I thought Makenzie pitched really well, too.”

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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