Knoch softball bows out of PIAAs with loss to Grove City

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Monday, June 3, 2019 | 8:19 PM


The Knoch softball team made its first trip into the PIAA softball playoffs Monday. The weather was near perfect, and the Knights’ confidence was at an all-time high as they looked to rebound from their semifinal loss and make a deep run in the state playoffs.

Also near perfect was Grove City starting pitcher Lizzie Malczak. Malczak pitched a gem giving up one hit and striking out 11 to lead District 10 champion Grove City past Knoch, 4-0, in the first round of the PIAA Class 4A playoffs at Slippery Rock.

“(Malczak) had some movement I guess we haven’t seen yet,” Knoch coach Gary Coe said. “She threw well. Hats off to them.”

Knoch (18-3) ends the season having made history, but it is also bitter sweet for seniors like first baseman Erin Luffy.

“It’s been the best season ever,” said Luffy. “We just didn’t drop any in today. We haven’t seen spin like that in a while.”

Grove City (16-5) advances to the quarterfinals to play WPIAL champ Elizabeth Forward (18-3) on Thursday at a site and time to be determined. The Indians beat District 9 champ Punxsutawney, 8-2, to advance.

“I expect her to do this every time she comes out and she has,” Grove City coach Dave Gatewood said of his pitcher. “Our schedule was made for us to get here. We respect the WPIAL teams, and we knew that it was going to be a tough game. We knew that we had to have our best game, and I think you saw it: one hit in the seventh inning.”

At the start, it seemed as though the game was going to be a pitchers’ duel, and for the most part it was. Knights pitcher Amanda Fischer faced four batters in the first inning and sat the Grove City side down in order in the second.

Things changed in the third inning, when Grove City senior Morgan Shingledecker sent a 1-1 pitch over the left-field fence to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead in the third inning.

“It’s a hard game and definitely good competition,” Fischer said. “We haven’t seen a team of that caliber this season.”

Fischer gave up five hits and four runs, three earned, while striking out three through six innings of work.

The Eagles tacked on another run in the fourth inning when sophomore Brooke Shingledecker popped up to center field, and Malczak scored from third to bring the score to 4-0.

“Four runs is not a bad outing for (Fischer), as well,” Coe said. “She threw well, and the one inning they scored some runs, but you’re going to have that in games. Wasn’t like (Fischer) wasn’t hitting her spots. They put the bat on the ball. Like I said, hats off to them.”

Malczak continued to dazzle. Knights batters made contact, but the way the ball was coming off the bat, it rarely left the infield. Malczak’s spin on the ball could be seen by the way the ball traveled once it was hit. Balls rarely traveled out of the infield and for the most part were bloopers.

Sophomore Bailey Rickenbrode got to Malczak in the top of the seventh inning when she singled off the left-center-field fence to break up Maczak’s perfect game. Until the moment, it was 20 batters up and 20 batters down.

All three of Knoch’s losses this season were shutouts. The Knights were outscored 10-0 in those three games.

“She shut us down,” Coe said. “It’s not often that our sticks get quieted, and they did today. Good for them, though.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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