Kiski Area softball rallies past Mars for 1st playoff win since ’08

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 | 10:33 PM

At the beginning of the season, the Kiski Area softball players used white paper cups to spell “Believe” in the chain-link outfield fence at their home field, a word that Cavaliers coach Maggie Jones used as a theme to the season.

It's turned out to be a pretty good word choice by Jones.

The Cavaliers displayed plenty of belief in winning seven of their final eight games to rally from a slow start to get into the playoffs, and they did the same thing after a jittery start in the first round on Wednesday.

After digging an early two-run hole with errors and walks, the No. 7 Cavaliers rallied with four runs in the third to take the lead and got strong pitching in tough spots from Megan Andree the rest of the way to score an 8-3 win over Mars in the WPIAL Class 5A first round at Hampton Community Park.

The win was Kiski Area's first in the postseason since 2008. The Cavaliers (11-6) will face No. 2 Albert Gallatin in the quarterfinals Monday at a site and time to be announced.

Andree struck out seven in a complete-game effort and allowed only one earned run. She stranded eight Mars baserunners and got herself out of several jams, some self-created with walks and hit batters and others that were because of errors.

“We've been in pressure situations and over the last couple weeks we've been able to overcome them,” Jones said. “I think that shows growth for Megan and the team to have her back. In a playoff environment the nerves get going and you can get down quickly if get yourself in a jam with a couple of errors. I'm just so proud of (Megan) because it just shows maturity and growth as leader of the team.”

A pair of errors on fly balls to left field by freshman Kassandra Cessna, which Jones called extremely uncharacteristic, aided Mars in scoring two early runs. But Cessna made up for the early mistakes by leading off the bottom of the third with a double that sparked the Cavaliers' rally. Kelsey Sofaly drove Cessna in with a double and Courtney Moyer followed with an RBI triple. Alexa Nagy and Andree finished the inning with a pair of RBI singles.

“The coaches always say there are two sides to the game, so I just knew that I had to put it behind me and if I got a hit then everything was going to be OK,” Cessna said. “I was just looking for a pitch in the strike zone, honestly, because they started off a little wild. I had to be patient and wait for my pitch.”

After Mars (10-9) committed back-to-back two out errors in the fifth, Cessna made them pay with a two-run single. Alayna Mintz followed by tripling in two more runs.

“I've told the girls all year that things can be contagious whether they're good or bad,” Mars coach Michelle Goodworth said. “We've talked about how things can unravel if you don't shake off an error. I wouldn't change too much about the game, though. I thought it was one of our best all-around games all season. I thought they left everything on the field today.”

Mars loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth with a couple of walks and a single, but Andree struck out Jordyn Douglas and then got Emilee Waldrop to fly out to left field to end the threat. Andree also stranded runners at the corners with one out in the fifth by getting a strikeout and a foul-out.

“I like pressure situations,” Andree said. “They really don't have any effect on me whatsoever.”

Eight of the nine Kiski Area batters reached base and Sarah Clever, the only batter to not reach base, had a key sacrifice bunt that eventually helped a runner score.

Kiski Area has been on a steady incline since going winless four years ago. They'll look to pull an upset in the quarterfinals against an Albert Gallatin team that was a state playoff qualifier last year.

“Considering where we were even three years ago, to be able to say we're moving onto the quarterfinals is something that makes me so proud to be the coach of this team,” Jones said. “I'm just so proud of all the girls.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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