Neshannock softball juggernaut rolls on with WPIAL 2A final win over Laurel

Thursday, June 1, 2023 | 9:24 PM

Neshannock’s dizzying 46th consecutive softball victory Thursday turned out to be such a special one. And, oh, don’t the Lancers know it.

Earning back-to-back WPIAL championships with a 12-2 rout of crosstown rival Laurel in the Class 2A final at PennWest California’s Lilley Field was enough to set off a wild postgame celebration in and around the Neshannock dugout.

“It’s exciting. What else can you say?” Neshannock coach Jackie Lash said. “It’s fun to be around a group of kids like this.”

In a battle of New Castle-area schools just seven miles apart, Addyson Frye homered and notched five RBIs while pitching a complete game with nine strikeouts as top-seeded Neshannock (20-0) dominated No. 2 Laurel (16-3) in the six-inning game shortened by the 10-run rule.

The game ended abruptly in the marathon bottom of the sixth, when Laurel’s Autumn Boyd hit Neshannock’s Aaralyn Nogay with a pitch with the bases loaded to give the Lancers their double-digit cushion.

Neshannock, which tied an unofficial WPIAL record for consecutive victories, will face District 6 runner-up Penns Valley on Monday in a PIAA first-round game.

Neshannock outscored Laurel in three victories this season by a combined 28-7, but the latest test didn’t come without some challenges. Laurel matched Neshannock’s nine hits and stranded 10 baserunners, seven through a frustrating first three innings for the Spartans, who left the bases loaded in the third.

“We had a lot of baserunners,” Laurel coach Frank Duddy said. “They let us get on, but they don’t let us score. That’s a machine over there.”

Lash responded adoringly to Duddy’s insights into the two neighboring schools’ rivalry.

“Frank knows us well,” Lash said. “He coaches travel ball, and some of these girls have played for him and maybe against him. They’ve been playing each other since they were 9-10 years old.”

Neshannock has won four WPIAL titles, its others coming in 2013 and ‘14, while Laurel has won three, in 2018, ‘19 and ‘21.

Like Neshannock, the season continues, too, for Laurel, which will face District 5 champion Everett on Monday.

The PIAA was expected Friday to announce sites and times for its entire first-round schedule.

“We’re not done yet,” Duddy said. “We’re going to try to make a nice state run. We’ve got a very good team here ourself. We’re no slouch. It’s just that (Neshannock) has owned us for the last two years. It is what it is. We don’t cower from them. We keep coming back and we battle. We’re going to keep doing what we do. Hopefully, we’ll see them in a couple of weeks and try again.”

With its latest success, Neshannock, which ousted Frazier in the 2022 championship game, unofficially tied Class 6A Hempfield’s WPIAL record of 46 consecutive victories from 2016-18.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Frye, just a sophomore. “We’re very supportive of each other. But we know we have to play it game by game and we can’t get cocky. We have to stay humble because anybody can beat us on any given day.”

It’s a tall order for opponents, though. Neshannock has outscored its challengers this season by a combined 248-18.

The Lancers had shut out their two previous playoff opponents by a total of 25-0 before Laurel got on the board first with a run in the second on Mayci Lang’s RBI single.

“I don’t think they approach us with fear, like maybe some lesser teams do,” Lash said. “They come on strong.”

And when the Spartans did, Lash teasingly questioned her players’ desire.

“I went out to the mound at one point in the game and talked to them and said, ‘OK, we haven’t had to really fight back.’” she said. “‘We’re down right now. We haven’t had that experience too often in the past two seasons. (Once prior this season, she said.). Now, it’s time to show everybody what you’ve got, what you’re made of.’”

Enough said.

Gabby Quinn hit a three-run homer and Frye and Ali Giordano each had two hits for Neshannock. Lang and losing pitcher Grace Kissick led Laurel with two hits apiece.

The Spartans’ early 1-0 lead was short-lived as Quinn’s homer capped a four-run rally in the third that put Neshannock on top, 4-1.

Frye’s homer in the fourth extended the Lancers’ lead to 6-1 and, after Laurel scored another run in the fifth on Addison Deal’s RBI single, Neshannock settled the outcome with its six-run sixth, chasing Kissick in the process.

In the circle, Frye gave up nine hits, walked two and hit a batter to go with her nine strikeouts.

With both teams advancing, who knows what’s next for either? Perhaps they’ll indeed meet again.

“They’re a quality team,” Lash said of Laurel. “I always say we’re the No. 1 team in the state and they’re right behind us.”

Watch an archived version of this game on Trib HSSN.

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