Knoch softball team 1 win from 1st berth in state tournament

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Monday, May 27, 2019 | 4:11 PM


The Knoch softball team had its eyes on a WPIAL 4A title, but a 4-0 semifinal loss to Elizabeth Forward last week curtailed that goal.

However, the Knights knew their season wasn’t over and turned their focus to making the state playoffs for the first time in program history.

Knoch can make that happen Tuesday when it faces Thomas Jefferson in the third-place consolation game at 3 p.m. at Seton Hill. The winner advances to the PIAA tournament.

“I think we came back (to practice) very well,” senior Monica Gourley said. “We played well against Elizabeth Forward, and the game could’ve gone either way. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way, but we know the opportunity we have. We are expecting it to be another good and close game.”

The Knoch players worked out Thursday, the day after the semifinals, took Friday and Saturday off and came back with a Sunday morning practice.

“We were doing infield practice on Sunday, and they were really loose and relaxed the whole time,” Knights coach Gary Coe said. “They are a close-knit group, and they were having fun.

“It hurt at first right after the (semifinal) loss. It was 0-0 into the sixth, and we were outhitting them. But the girls let it go pretty quickly and were ready to bounce back and play again. We can’t change the outcome, so you move on. The girls understand that well. They have a lot still to play for.”

Thomas Jefferson won eight of nine games to close the regular season. The fourth-seeded Jaguars, runners-up in Section 2 to Elizabeth Forward, then earned a 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Yough.

Knoch will face Jaguars junior Bella Bucy, who limited top-seeded Mt. Pleasant to three hits in last week’s 2-0 semifinal loss.

Bucy scattered three hits and struck out nine against Yough.

“She’s a left-hander, and we don’t see many of them,” Coe said. “That will be a new look for the girls. But the girls know to expect that. At this point in the season, you’re going to see a combination of good pitchers, good hitters and good defense.”

Senior Erin Luffy knows a lot about Bucy, as the two have been travel softball teammates.

“She’s just a great pitcher,” Luffy said. “She throws quick with a lot of spin. It will be interesting to see how we hit.”

Thomas Jefferson (15-4) scored just four runs over its past four games, but Coe knows they can score in a hurry.

The Jaguars opened the season with six straight wins, scoring at least 10 runs in all of them. They had at least seven runs in four other victories.

While Knoch is gunning for its first trip to states, Thomas Jefferson it last year.

The Jaguars, who dropped to 4A before this season, lost to West Allegheny in last year’s WPIAL 5A title game. They rebounded to win two games in the state playoffs before again falling to the Indians in the semifinals.

“The girls understand this game is win or go home, but they are excited and ready to play,” Coe said. “They go out and play the game and don’t get worked up about too much. I knew it was going to be this way early in the season when they didn’t let a deficit against Ambridge get to them and were able to come back with six runs in the bottom of the seventh to win.”

The loss to Elizabeth Forward was Knoch’s first against a WPIAL opponent this season.

The Knights (17-2) were shut out in the first game of a three-game tournament in Tennessee in early April.

Knoch bounced back with two wins on the trip, and it was the start of a 13-game winning streak that brought them to the WPIAL semifinals.

The Knights routed Greensburg Salem, 12-2, in the quarterfinals, their 11th time this season scoring 10 or more runs.

“We’re really excited with where we are because we weren’t sure how things were going to go with a new coach and six seniors leaving last year,” Gourley said. “But it was nice the way we were able to come together and win. Hopefully, we can keep going.”

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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