Neshannock tops Frazier in WPIAL championship clash of undefeated 2A teams

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Friday, June 3, 2022 | 12:01 AM


Whenever a Neshannock batter stepped into the Lilley Field batter’s box Friday, a peculiar shout sometimes came from the dugout: Smile.

And, no, it wasn’t picture day.

“On the bus today, we were saying, if one of us ever gets down in the dumps, it could take the whole team down with them,” said Gabby Quinn, a freshman third baseman. “You’ve just got to get in the box, have fun and relax. That’s when we play the best softball.”

So, don’t forget to smile.

That became even easier for the Lancers once their afternoon ended with gold medals around their necks. Top-seeded Neshannock collected 14 hits and used another strong outing by freshman pitcher Addy Frye to defeat No. 2 Frazier, 9-1, in the WPIAL Class 2A softball final at Cal (Pa.).

The championship game was a clash of previously undefeated teams.

Neshannock’s reminder to smile is about staying confident at the plate, but also a subtle message to opposing pitchers.

“We say it all the time,” Lancers coach Jackie Lash said. “In fact … before the game, that was one of the last messages to them: ‘No matter what, get up there and smile.’ And when you get in a batter’s box and you’re smiling, what does it do to the pitcher? It gets in their head a little bit.

“We just think it’s confidence.”

Neshannock has only one senior on the team, but if any of the underclassmen were nervous for this championship game, it certainly didn’t show. Frye pitched a five-hitter with 10 strikeouts, and the team’s No. 4 and 5 batters — Quinn and junior first baseman Hunter Newman — went 5 for 8 combined with five RBIs and five runs scored.

This was the 16th time in 22 games that Neshannock has scored at least nine runs.

Aaralyn Nogay went 3 for 4 with two runs scored, Gabby Perod had two hits and an RBI, and courtesy runner Aubrie Ragone scored once for Perod. Ali Giordano and Katie DiMuccio each had RBIs. Neleh Nogay, the team’s only senior, also scored a run.

The game was tied 1-1 after three innings before Neshannock scored three runs in the fourth, three more in the fifth and two in the sixth. Combined, they’ve now outscored their four playoff opponents, 31-2.

“There are times when we get down on ourselves, so our main theme is to just go up to the batter’s box with a smile and have fun while you’re in there,” said Newman, who scored three runs.

“Even when we got down or times got tough, everybody was smiling and picking each other up,” said Quinn, who went 3 for 4 with two RBI doubles.

The WPIAL title was the third overall for Neshannock (22-0) and its first since winning back-to-back championships in 2013-14. This win came a few months after the Lancers also celebrated WPIAL and PIAA basketball titles with some of the same girls.

Frazier (18-1) was seeking its second WPIAL title after winning in 2017.

“They’re a phenomenal team,” Frazier coach Don Hartman said. “I knew coming in, I’m not afraid to say they’re better than us. They have more speed than us. More power than us. They have a pitcher who throws harder than we’ve seen all season long.

“They’re the real deal.”

Both teams advance to the PIAA playoffs that start Monday. If there’s to be a WPIAL championship rematch, it would come in the state semifinals.

“We started working in November with three goals,” Quinn said. “We wanted to win the section, win the WPIAL and the next one is states, so we’ve got to keep working.”

Unlike those title-winning Neshannock basketball teams in the winter, this softball group wasn’t a preseason favorite. But they put together a convincing regular season and now a dominant postseason run.

A key to that success has been the right arm of Frye, who upped her strikeout total to 41 in 24 playoff innings. On Friday, she walked leadoff batter Jensyn Hartman and surrendered a one-out, RBI triple to Victoria Washinski as Frazier took a 1-0 lead. But Frye then pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just four singles and no walks the rest of the way.

Frye ran into trouble in the sixth when Frazier loaded the bases with a fielding error and two singles, but she then struck out three batters in a row to escape.

“Even though she’s only 14, 15 years old, her maturity as a pitcher is so high,” Lash said. “She’s so fun to work with because she’s just so smart as a pitcher.”

Frye took it upon herself this week to watch video of Frazier batters and draw up her own scouting report. At times Friday, she offered suggestions on what pitches to throw, and Lash agreed.

“In school when I had time, I watched film and took notes on what their hitters struggled with and what they could hit,” Frye said. “I texted Jackie last night and I told her everything. We just kept throwing that.”

Frazier pitcher Nicole Palmer kept Neshannock largely in check through three innings before running into trouble in the fourth. Palmer allowed 14 hits, walked none and struck out two. Four errors by Frazier’s defense contributed to Neshannock’s big innings.

Neshannock forced a 1-1 tie in the second inning when Newman singled and scored.

The Lancers struck again in the fourth when Newman reached base on an error and Quinn followed with an RBI double. Perod and DiMuccio both singled, giving Neshannock a 4-1 lead.

In the fifth, Neshannock strung together five hits and scored three times. Aaralyn Nogay, Newman and Quinn all reached base and scored to lead 7-1.

In the sixth, Neleh Nogay and Aaralyn Nogay each singled and scored.

“We haven’t won anything big like this since 2014,” Newman said. “It’s been too long. The pride and confidence from this feels awesome.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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