No. 1 Armstrong puts on a show in statement win over Franklin Regional

Wednesday, April 20, 2022 | 10:21 PM

With nicknames like “Camo,” “Smoke” and “Mack Attack,” players on the Armstrong softball team appreciate a good time.

But just the same, they know when it’s time to put the business end of the bat on the ball.

The top-ranked Class 5A team in the WPIAL — and state — flexed its offensive muscles in a big way Wednesday, ripping No. 3 Franklin Regional, 17-2, in a Section 1 game shortened to four innings in Murrysville.

“This was the best ball we’ve played all year,” River Hawks junior outfielder Jenna Clontz said.

And that is saying something.

Armstrong, the returning WPIAL and PIAA runner-up, has now scored 107 runs in seven games, rolling out a lineup that simply rakes 1 through 9.

If there ever were a statement game for the River Hawks (7-0, 5-0), this run-ruled result might have been it.

“When we played them (earlier in the season) at our place, it was a hitter’s fest,” Armstrong coach Doug Flanders said. “Today, we were just solid all around — pitching, batting and base-running. We were motivated.”

Franklin Regional (9-2, 5-2), which went hit-for-hit with the River Hawks in an 18-13 loss, committed eight errors.

The Panthers’ five-game winning streak is over.

The River Hawks outhit the Panthers, 15-3.

Teams used to go to Dairy Queen after victories. Armstrong stopped at a Starbucks on the way home. A day at the plate like that was worth some baked goods and a couple dozen Frappuccinos and fruit drinks.

A nine-run fourth inning lulled the Panthers, who have been potent themselves with an 11.2 run average.

“We had them to two outs (in the first) and they hit that home run,” Franklin Regional coach Jim Armstrong said. “That was a little deflating. We made eight errors. Defensively, I didn’t know if that was my team. We dropped some balls, had some overthrows and there was miscommunication.”

Clontz, known as “JC,” hit her first home run of the season, a two-run blast in the first.

Junior Cassidy Adams added two hits, junior winning pitcher Cameryn Sprankle had two doubles, and junior Cassidy Adams went 3 for 3.

Sophomore Jessica Pugh and junior Emma Smerick each had two RBIs.

“We really hit well with two outs today,” Clontz said. “The lower part of our lineup is really doing well, too.”

In their previous meeting, the teams combined for 31 runs and 30 hits.

This time, Franklin Regional’s bats were quiet.

“Camo (Sprankle) hit her spots and really had some movement on her pitches,” Flanders said.

Errors allowed the River Hawks to begin to pull away in the second when they took a 6-1 lead.

Another miscue allowed them to increase it to 8-1 in the third.

“Our goal is to score every inning,” Flanders said.

The back-breaking inning for Franklin Regional followed. After a walk and an error, the River Hawks went to work and did not let up.

A two-run single by Pugh kick-started a nine-run rally. Adams and Sprankle had run-scoring doubles, Smerick knocked in two more, and an error and wild pitch led to a 17-1 lead.

Junior Madison Nguyen homered for the Panthers in the fourth.

“The weather is getting warmer and I think we are getting better as the weather improves,” Flanders said. “We put the barrel on the ball and let the results take care of themselves.”

Coach Armstrong took the loss in stride.

“It’s humbling because of how our defense played,” he said. “Not to make excuses, but it’s tough to get into a rhythm (with the weather). It’s annoying. We have only practiced on our field twice all year.

“Like Clint Hurdle said, ‘Go home, take a shower and wash it off.’ ”

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

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