No. 11 Ellwood City tops Southmoreland, continues underdog run to softball finals

Tuesday, May 25, 2021 | 7:43 PM

Ellwood City coach Gary Rozanski has seen his teams win WPIAL championships before but never has judged them on aesthetics.

It’s not about how it looks. It’s about finding ways to advance.

“It’s about playing your best ball and getting hot at the right time,” Rozanski said. “Who takes better advantage of their opportunities is probably going to win.”

The 11th-seeded Wolverines, like their school’s boys basketball team that harnessed momentum and won a WPIAL title in the winter, are playing sound softball when it matters most.

No. 7 Southmoreland did not help its cause with a couple of mistakes against Ellwood City in Tuesday’s WPIAL Class 3A semifinal, but the Wolverines did enough to advance to the title game with a 4-2 victory at Penn-Trafford.

Ellwood City (14-4), the WPIAL 3A champion in 2017 and ’08 (and the 2A champ in ’16) will face top-seeded Mt. Pleasant (16-3) for another title June 2 or 3 at Cal U.

Southmoreland (11-5), the 3A champ in ’18, drops into the third-place game and will play Avonworth (12-6) for a spot in the PIAA playoffs. That game will be 2 p.m. Thursday at Gateway.

“We have to regroup and be ready to play Thursday,” Scotties coach Todd Bunner said .”We hit the ball hard, but we hit it right at them. We’ll let the girls be sad for a day, then we’re getting back to work.”

The Wolverines pulled in front in the fifth, finally getting to Scotties ace Jess Matheny, who struck out seven through four frames.

With two outs, junior Angie Nardone singled to shallow center to tie it 1-1. With runners at first and second, junior Kyla Servick grounded back to Matheny, but her throw to first sailed high and two runs raced home to make it 3-1.

“Mistakes are going to happen,” Bunner said. “But we need to limit them. Jess is our unquestioned leader and has been all year. She is the definition of a leader. Those kinds of mistakes make you better.”

With freshman pitcher Julia Nardone keeping a potent Scotties lineup in check, the Wolverines tacked on an insurance run in the seventh.

“Julie pitched well again,” Rozanski said. “We knew they were a good-hitting team, but our girls did a nice job.”

The Scotties had six hits and the Wolverines five.

Angie Nardone and Servick singled, and senior Maria Ioanilli hit a soft blooper to right. The ball dropped in and got past freshman outfielder Gwen Bassinger, allowing the fourth run to score.

The Scotties pieced together a run in their final at-bat. Matheny, freshman Amarah McCutcheon and senior Emily Eutsey all singled. Eutsey’s hit brought home a run, but McCutcheon was thrown out at third to end it.

Southmoreland led 1-0 in the third after a sacrifice fly by sophomore Bryn Charnesky.

Matheny struck out nine and walked three. Angie Nardone went 2 for 3.

Matheny and McCutcheon each had two hits for Southmoreland.

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

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