One big hit enough for Avonworth to win pitchers’ duel over Burrell in softball semifinal
Tuesday, May 23, 2023 | 9:11 PM
She struck out against the Bucs senior to begin the bottom of the second and then went down on strikes to end the bottom of the fourth.
But Kuban, a junior right fielder, had the last laugh.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth of a scoreless battle, Kuban crushed an Armstrong offering to the wall in left-center field.
The bases-clearing hit was all the scoring in the game as Avonworth punched its ticket to a third WPIAL title game in four seasons with a 3-0 victory.
“I talked with coach (Jenna) Muncie before I went to the plate, and she said that pressure is a good thing. Pressure is a privilege,” said Kuban, who had one of the Antelopes’ three hits off of Armstrong. “Those are the moments you live for. Having that chance was something I always imagined. I was just thinking, ‘Hit the ball and make contact.’ ”
The win, Avonworth’s 20th of the season against just one defeat, keeps its title-defense hopes alive. The top-seeded Antelopes will take on No. 2 Southmoreland for the Class 3A championship March 31 or June 1 at Cal (Pa.).
The Scotties completed the title-matchup with a 7-0 victory Tuesday over No. 3 Waynesburg Central.
Avonworth came into the game with a pair of playoff 10-run mercy rule results, including last Thursday’s 10-0 victory over Central Valley when it smacked six home runs.
But the Antelopes’ were limited by Armstrong, who collected seven strikeouts. Armstrong fanned 13 in a 2-1 loss to Avonworth on May 9.
Two of the three Avonworth hits Tuesday came in the bottom of the sixth. But the rally in the inning started with a strikeout that turned into a walk.
Pinch hitter Jayla Jones battled Armstrong to a full count, fouling off several two-strike offerings. Armstrong got Jones to swing for what appeared to be strike three. But the home plate umpire ruled an illegal pitch. That turned strike three into ball four, and Jones was awarded first.
Mara Stetser, the left fielder and No. 9 hitter in the order, followed with an infield single that traveled a couple of feet in front of home plate.
Armstrong got leadoff hitter Sydney Savatt to line out to short, and Armstrong’s counterpart in the pitching circle, Alivia Lantzy, struck out.
Catcher Rylee Gray then worked a 3-1 count before drawing a walk to load the bases and setting the stage for Kuban’s heroics.
“The umpire said (Armstrong) was crow-hopping on her delivery,” Burrell coach Rick Nealer said. “The other pitcher was doing the same thing, but she wasn’t called on it. We should’ve been out of the inning with no runs allowed because the strikeout (Lantzy) would’ve been the third out. It was a tough pill to swallow. We had two good teams going here. Avonworth is a heckuva team.”
Despite the loss, Burrell’s season is far from over. Having already clinched a spot in the state playoffs for the second year in a row, the Bucs (13-6) will play for third place against Waynesburg Central at a site, date and time to be determined.
“We have to come back strong and stay the course,” Nealer said. “We have to shake this one off and get the next one. It’s one game at a time for us. We want to get back and build some momentum for the state playoffs.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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