Knoch takes down Thomas Jefferson to reach PIAA Class 4A softball playoffs

Tuesday, May 28, 2019 | 6:23 PM

There was plenty of weather swirling around Seton Hill’s softball field Tuesday afternoon. Spotty showers showed up for a few minutes, and a random lightning strike suspended play for 30 minutes.

What proved to be more disrupting were the straight-line winds created from the pitcher’s circle by Knoch’s Amanda Fischer and the thunder from the Knights’ bats as No. 3-seeded Knoch downed No. 4 Thomas Jefferson, 7-2, in the WPIAL Class 4A third-place consolation game.

“Not that we ever doubted it, but there were several questions from media guys, ‘Can you guys be ready since you guys lost the other day?’ ” Knoch coach Gary Coe said. “The infield and outfield were dancing in between innings. They’ve been a loose group all season.”

The win puts Knoch (18-2) into the PIAA playoffs for first time in school history. The Knights will play the District 10 champion Monday at a time and site to be determined.

“We don’t hit,” Thomas Jefferson coach Heidi Karcher said. “We haven’t hit all postseason.”

But Thomas Jefferson (15-5) did strike first. The Jaguars scored in the top of the first inning. Graci Fairman hit a hard low line-drive in the gap at shortstop to score Abigail Chalovich from third. But it wasn’t enough.

“All we do is practice hitting, and we try and make adjustments, and they’re not being made at the plate,” Karcher said. “When you don’t hit, you don’t win.”

Knoch tied the score in the bottom of the first when Quinn Hughes drilled a deep shot to the left-field warning track for a stand-up double that scored Monica Gourley.

Brynnae Coe popped up to left-center field to score Hughes from second and give the Knights the lead for good at 2-1.

“We got a hitting team,” coach Coe said.

Bailey Rickenbrode drilled a fast grounder down the third-base line to score Gourley and extend the Knights’ lead to 3-1 in the second inning.

Thomas Jefferson got a run back in the third when Mackenzie Zang hit a 220-foot homer over the center-field fence to cut the deficit to 4-2.

Zang’s blast wasn’t enough of a spark, however. Knoch infielder Sophie Brandon hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Brynnae Coe in the fourth, as the Knights started to get to Thomas Jefferson pitcher Isabella Bucy. Bucy allowed 13 hits, seven runs and walked three over six innings.

Knights first baseman Erin Luffy hit a towering shot over the left-field fence to extend Knoch’s lead to 5-2.

“It felt good, and I knew it was going,” Luffy said of her home run. “We were just trying to get some runs on the board.”

The Knights added two more runs in the fifth when Gourley hit a two-run single to score Melissa Melius and Olivia Vissari.

Fischer got stronger as the game went on. She held the Jaguars in check most of the way and retired the side in order in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

“(Fischer) has been tough for us and solid all year,” coach Coe said.

Fischer gave up seven hits and struck out five through seven innings.

“We approach every game the same,” coach Coe said. “We just come out and play our game.”

Check out an archived broadcast of this game on the TribLive High School Sports Network.

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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