Knoch softball rolling through competition in Section 3-4A

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019 | 7:43 PM


The Knoch softball team dug itself a sizable hole in its Section 3-4A opener April 2 at Ambridge.

The Knights trailed 6-1 after three innings and 9-4 heading to the seventh.

But the team rallied in its final at-bat, scoring six runs to claim a dramatic 10-9 victory. Sophomore Bailey Rickenbrode’s two-run walk-off double capped the come-from-behind win.

Since then, Knoch has steamrolled its way through its section competition to a 6-0 record and is 10-1 overall.

“It was definitely an eye-opener as we didn’t know most of the teams before this season,” junior pitcher Amanda Fischer said of her team’s foray into a schedule with all new section opponents.

“We made sure we went into each game with an open mind and played at our level and our expectations.”

The Knights, No. 3 in the latest Trib HSSN rankings, return to action at 4 p.m. Wednesday against section foe Blackhawk.

Knoch, with a mix of returning veterans and others in increased or new varsity roles after the loss of six players to graduation, has its eyes focused on finishing strong in the section. The Knights also hope to earn one of the top seeds for the WPIAL playoffs and build on last year’s first postseason win since 2007.

Knoch and Ambridge met again last week, and the result was the same. But this time, the Knights left no doubt by scoring 11 runs in the third inning en route to a 14-1 victory stopped after five innings.

“Everyone’s mentality was a little different coming into the second game,” said senior Monica Gourley, who had three of her team’s 16 hits and a pair of RBIs in the win.

“We learned and remembered a lot about Ambridge from the first time around and played with a lot of confidence.”

Knoch capped the first half of the section slate with a 10-0 victory over New Castle last Thursday. The Red Hurricanes came in a with a 3-1 record in the section and were looking for the upset.

But the Knights, led by the pitching of Fischer with 12 strikeouts, no walks and only two hits allowed, breezed to a 10-0 victory. Rickenbrode had four hits in the team’s 20-hit attack, senior Erin Luffy drove in five runs, and Brynnae Coe homered.

“That was an important victory for us,” Gourley said. “It was the last team we had to play in the first half of section. It was a good feeling to come out and play well against them.”

Knoch owns additional section wins over Blackhawk, 12-0; Quaker Valley, 7-0; and Central Valley, 10-0.

“We’re definitely going into the second half of section more confident and relaxed,” Luffy said.

In her past three outings, Fischer struck out 32, walked none and surrendered seven hits over 19 innings of work. She is 7-1 on the season.

“It makes me feel good that my team, my defense has my back,” Fischer said. “If I make a mistake, I know they’re behind me to pick me up.”

In addition to some early WPIAL nonsection matchups, the Knights traveled to Kentucky in early April for a trio of games.

Knoch won two of three on the trip. Its one loss was to Boyle County (Ky.) by a 3-0 score. Boyle County features all-state pitcher Katy Grace Chadwell, and she limited the Knights to five hits.

Despite that shutout loss, the Knights are averaging nine runs, a pace they hope to keep up into the stretch run.

“It’s always fun to see who hits in the lineup,” Luffy said. “Sometimes, the top half of the lineup might not do well in a certain inning, but the next inning, the bottom half will come through. It’s also a good vibe when someone is hitting so well. It carries over to the rest of the team. It’s contagious.”

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

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