Penn-Trafford softball escapes with victory over Bethel Park in 1st round

Monday, May 13, 2024 | 9:51 PM

Since Denny Little took over as coach of the Penn-Trafford softball team in 2017, his teams had made it a habit of playing in the Class 5A quarterfinals.

That tradition ended last season, when the rebuilding Warriors qualified for the playoffs but were bounced in the first round by eventual champion Trinity.

A new run into the second round began Monday, when fourth-seeded Penn-Trafford escaped with a victory over upset-minded Bethel Park, 3-2.

The Warriors (13-5), who have won three straight games and six of their last seven, will face No. 5 Shaler in the WPIAL 5A quarterfinals Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.

“It’s important. We always want to play late in the ‘second’ season,” Little said. “The nice thing about it is we have a lot of young players. They really haven’t experienced the WPIAL playoffs. Now they just did. To come out on top against a really good team, that’s going to be big for them. They finally got their playoff win.”

The game was close throughout and was dominated by pitching and great defense.

Bethel Park senior pitcher Makenzie Wade and Penn-Trafford freshman pitcher Allyson Paulone were outstanding, even though they weren’t dominant.

They combined to allow one earned run on nine total hits with only four combined strikeouts.

Paulone allowed runners in all seven innings, but she came up large when she had to make a big pitch.

“She’s just mature beyond her years,” Little said. “That’s what stood out most when she came into the program: This kid has a great head on her shoulders. That pitching performance is characteristic of her personality. She works hard, makes adjustments and she pitches to contact.”

The 13th-seeded Black Hawks had a two-out double by sophomore Anna Duguid in the first inning, a leadoff double in the second inning by sophomore Anastasia Spano and leadoff runners in the third and fourth innings who were wiped away by inning-ending double plays thanks to Warriors junior shortstop Kylie Anthony.

“(Bethel Park) put the ball in play, and they put it in play hard,” Little said. “Kylie Anthony, I can’t say enough about that kid. My pitcher pitched to contact, and it was hard contact. Defensively, kudos to everybody, but Kylie Anthony stood out as the difference in this game.”

While Paulone was pitching out of trouble, the Black Hawks’ Wade was perfect for 2 2/3 innings. However, the Warriors’ first hit was a big one as junior Lorryn Sepe hit a home run over the right-center field fence at West Mifflin to give Penn-Trafford the lead after three innings.

It was Penn-Trafford’s only hit through the first five innings against Wade.

“Makenzie did a great job,” Bethel Park coach Nicole Davis said. “She knew coming in that the goal was to work the corners and trust her defense behind her. We knew that team had some big hitters, but she still executed. Only letting up three hits and one earned run to a team like that tells a lot about how well she pitched.”

The defense for both teams, which had been so good throughout the first five innings, buckled in the sixth inning.

Bethel Park tied the score when senior Belinda Bova led off with a double. She was at third base with two outs when a high pitch hit off the glove of Penn-Trafford catcher Mack Keenan and deflected back to the screen for a passed ball as Bova beat the throw from Keenan to Paulone to tie the score 1-1.

Penn-Trafford regained the lead in the bottom of the sixth when Ella Mains reached on an error. Sepe intentionally was walked before junior Cam Ponko delivered the Warriors’ second hit of the game, an RBI double.

The third hit, an infield single by Erin Drotos, drove in Sepe with the winning run.

An RBI groundout by Aubrey Campbell brought home an unearned run in the top of the seventh inning for Bethel Park before Paulone got Duguid to pop up with the tying run at third base.

The Black Hawks ended their season 10-10.

“We told them team how proud of them we were,” Davis said. “We emphasized that these games are going to come down to who executes, and there were too many people left on base. The growth they’ve had this year was just the beginning.”

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