Ligonier Valley softball still unbeaten, defeats ‘scrappy’ Serra Catholic

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Friday, April 16, 2021 | 9:52 PM


After craning her neck to watch the softball stay just fair and sail over the left-field fence, Ligonier Valley pitcher Maddie Griffin turned her attention to the baserunner.

Serra Catholic’s Lexxie Fite connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning Friday evening for the first runs allowed by Griffin and WPIAL newcomer Ligonier Valley all season.

As Fite was rounding third, Griffin looked at her and offered this: “Nice hit, kid.”

“They were scrappy today, and I respect that,” Griffin said. “Nobody has done that against us.”

The visting Eagles respect Griffin, too.

The home run did little damage in the end as Griffin, a hard-throwing junior, struck out a career-high 17, allowed four hits and did not issue a walk, and a productive offense backed her with 10 hits as the top-ranked Rams stayed perfect with a 7-2 victory in a Section 1-2A showdown at cold and soggy Donaldson Field.

“Getting our bats going is what we needed,” said Griffin, who helped her team improve to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in section. They are now alone in first place. “We didn’t get worried (when Serra scored).”

No. 5 Serra Catholic moved to 4-1, 2-1.

Ligonier Valley outscored its first four opponents, 28-0. Serra scored 50 runs before the first-place clash with the Rams.

Griffin (5-0) has thrown three no-hitters this season and has 68 strikeouts. She saw limited action in the circle two years ago playing behind ace Jane Garver, now an impactful freshman at Robert Morris.

But Griffin now is unequivocally the go-to girl in the circle.

“You’re not supposed to shut out everybody,” Rams coach Mark Zimmerman said. “You know sooner or later someone’s going to touch one. Serra has a nice team. We didn’t know what to expect.”

Griffin struck out seven Eagles’ hitters the first time through the order and did not allow a hit until the fourth when Chloe Honick singled to left.

Fite followed with the homer to trim the Rams’ lead to 4-2.

They took early control on a three-run double by senior Bella Vargulish and another run-scoring two-base hit by senior Kailey Johnston to make it 4-0.

“It was important to get runs up early,” Johnston said. “It took some pressure off. It’s a huge confidence boost to know you have Maddie pitching (with a lead).”

In the fifth, sophomore Haley Boyd swiped home on a double-steal with no outs as the Rams added some more breathing room. Serra had just committed back-to-back errors to start the inning.

Then, after a passed ball, freshman Cheyenne Piper cracked a deep drive off the fence in center to make it 6-2.

“That was the longest single you’ll ever see,” Griffin said.

With one out, sophomore Ruby Wallace drove a double to left to increase the advantage to 7-2, chasing Serra starter Fite. who was replaced by Isabella Countryman.

After leaving two runners stranded in the seventh, the Rams set down the Eagles in order to end it, with Griffin fanning the final two hitters.

“Maddie is a fierce competitor,” Zimmerman said. “She is a really fine athlete and has done a super job hitting her spots.”

Griffin, Johnston and Wallace all had two hits, with Griffin and Piper scoring twice.

Honick had a rare 2-for-3 day against Griffin.

Ligonier Valley, a longtime member of the District 6 Heritage Conference, is one of six undefeated teams left in the WPIAL.

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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