Penn-Trafford softball powers past Franklin Regional

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018 | 9:06 PM


Penn-Trafford softball coach Denny Little called his team over for a postgame huddle behind the backstop for the customary awarding of game balls.

If you're an Emma or Morgan, you probably got one — or at least a well-deserved round of group recognition.

Those were popular names on the lineup card Tuesday as the third-ranked Warriors posted an impressive 6-0 shutout over No. 2 Franklin Regional in a matchup of Section 1-5A headliners in sun-splashed Harrison City.

With the victory, the Warriors (13-2, 11-1) move a half-game ahead of the Panthers (12-3, 10-1) for first place.

Senior Emma Nedley and freshman Brooke Cleland launched home runs over the left-field fence, junior Emma Armstrong doubled twice, sophomore pitcher Morgan Hilty tossed seven strong innings and junior shortstop Morgan Nedley led a vacuum-sealed defense as the Warriors posted their sixth consecutive win and ninth in 10 games.

Franklin Regional (12-3, 10-1), which had won four in a row, beat the Warriors earlier this season 13-9, as Chrissy Kemerer hit two home runs.

The Panthers this time managed just six hits, nine groundouts and seven flyouts against Hilty, who booked her second complete game of the season, the first coming against defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Hempfield, 7-3.

“We were ready after losing to them,” Emma Nedley said. “We knew we had to come out and get the hits when we needed them and play solid defense. Morgan pitched a complete game, and she did phenomenal. We made all the necessary plays and the exceptional ones, that just motivated us to get our bats around and help our pitching.”

After Armstrong knocked in the first run with a double, Nedley crushed a no-doubter to left to make it 3-0 in the third inning.

“I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it,” Nedley said. “It felt like one of the best balls I've ever hit.”

Asked how far she thought the ball traveled — the fence in left is 200 feet from home plate — Nedley added, “I have no idea … over the fence, that's all that matters.”

Cleland made the most of another Armstrong two-base hit in the fifth with a two-out, three-run blast for a 6-0 advantage.

Penn-Trafford, which came in averaging 10.5 runs, is starting to show that a lineup of single-slappers and gap-hitters can also swing for power. This team can hit and score like last year's high-scoring group, but it's beginning to reveal similar pop. The teams are different but cut from the same cloth.

“The long ball really came through,” Little said. “Emma Nedley just crushed that ball. And Brooke Cleland, a freshman stepping in, she takes a hack. It's coming through.

“We're still not to where we were last year, but we'll get there. Hopefully by the end of the season.”

Franklin Regional made several heads-up plays on defense to get lead runners, but the home runs erased the damage for Penn-Trafford.

The Panthers' scoring chances were fleeting.

Sophomore Olivia Yurinko doubled twice for the visitors, including in the fifth when she reached second and moved up on a wild pitch.

Senior Jocelyn Behr grounded to short but rather than throw to first, Morgan Nedley fired home to get Yurinko. Hilty struck out Kemerer to end that threat.

“Not many girls make that throw,” Little said. “Morgan Nedley at shortstop. If there is a college out there that doesn't know about this girl yet, she's a hidden gem.”

In the seventh, Franklin Regional put a pair of baserunners in scoring position after a single by Mariah DeRiggi and a two-out double from Yurinko. But Hilty induced Behr into a game-ending pop-up.

“We knew they were a great hitting team. … It was one inning at a time, one batter at a time,” Hilty said. “Our defense was on today, so it was amazing.

“We love hitting. But I know if I pitch it down the middle, the defense will field it.”

Franklin Regional played a nine-inning game against Kiski Area on Monday and pitcher Angalee Beall, who threw all seven innings Tuesday, pitched the entire game — a two-hit, 1-0 shutout.

Penn-Trafford had the day off.

“That's the way it flies sometimes,” Franklin Regional coach Jim Armstrong said. “We didn't field the ball well. … It might have been a little effect from (Monday), but that's not an excuse. (Penn-Trafford) is a good team.

“It's hard when you're playing continuously; it's a battle. We have not practiced (outside) yet this season. We need to be able to score more runs.”

Both teams have clinched WPIAL playoff spots.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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