Leechburg softball rolls past Mapletown, advances to WPIAL Class A semifinals

Thursday, May 20, 2021 | 8:03 PM

Adjusting her helmet and gripping her bat while on the move from the dugout, Bella Vozar shuffled toward the plate in the bottom of the third inning like she was late for class.

The umpire told her to slow down and take her time.

“I’m OK,” the Leechburg junior catcher replied as she stepped into the box.

Yes, she was.

Vozar cracked the first pitch of that at-bat for a two-run double as No. 2 seed Leechburg added to its lead on the way to a 9-3 victory over No. 7 Mapletown on Thursday in a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal softball game at Norwin.

Vozar, who went 3 for 3 with two RBIs, was in a hurry to hit, and Leechburg was in a hurry to get back to the WPIAL semifinals.

The Blue Devils (13-4) will play in their fifth straight semifinal Tuesday against No. 3 Union (11-7), which rallied for a 6-5 walk-off win over No. 6 Greensburg Central Catholic.

“I am always in a rush in everything I do,” Vozar said. “I want to hurry up. We had a lot of faith in ourselves. I know I had a lot of anxiety when I got off the bus.”

The Maples (9-7) cut a five-run deficit to 5-3 in the top of the fifth. Macee Cree delivered a two-run double, and Riley Pekar dropped a sacrifice bunt to score another run.

“Mapletown was a tough team, and we knew that coming in,” Leechburg seventh-year coach Debbi Young said. “When you get to the playoffs, everyone wants to win. They were solid and gave us a good game.”

But in the end, Leechburg’s offense shined through. Playing a tough nonsection schedule that included games against Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland, Deer Lakes and Keystone Oaks, the Blue Devils were tested for playoff pressure.

Skylyn Raypush brought a run home on a fielder’s choice — Vozar just beat the throw home — Olivia Shimer followed with a run-scoring single and McKenna Pierce touched all the bases when she singled and ran all the way around and scored after a three-base error to make it 9-3 in the sixth.

“McKenna’s hit gave us control,” Young said. “I mean, we never were behind, but that kind of turned it around for us. And Emma (Ritchie) was really good for us. She doesn’t get a lot of attention, but she does a great job.”

Ritchie gave up six hits and had just as many strikeouts, against one walk. She also went 2 for 4.

Karli Mazak, Raypush and Anna Cibik had RBIs early before Vozar’s double made it 5-0, chasing Maples starting pitcher Devan Clark.

“Bella is quietly unassuming,” Young said. “She was on today.”

Pierce had two hits and two RBIs for the Blue Devils.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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