Playoff picture looking good for Fox Chapel after win over Penn Hills

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Monday, April 22, 2024 | 10:15 PM


The Fox Chapel softball team took one step closer to securing a spot in the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs with an 11-0 win Monday afternoon.

The Foxes, who have only two seniors in the starting lineup, pounded out 11 hits, and freshman pitcher Jillian Haigh limited the Penn Hills bats to just one hit in a Section 1-5A game halted after five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.

“We all came together and played really well as a team today, up and down the lineup,” said junior left fielder Brie Hnatow, who went 3 for 3 with a double, three RBIs and three runs scored. “I was proud of everyone today, especially Jillian, who was mowing through their lineup. She’s been doing amazing.”

Fox Chapel completed the season sweep of Penn Hills. The Foxes also won 11-6 at Penn Hills on April 9.

Monday also was senior day, and Mia Dunleavy and Caitie Troutman were celebrated before the game.

“It was great to get the win on senior day, and to do it with the run rule was even better,” said Dunleavy, who went 1 for 3 with a run scored. “This game was probably the best we’ve done at putting hits together to help us score runs.”

With the win, Fox Chapel improved to 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the section with three section games left starting Wednesday at Oakland Catholic.

The Foxes then close out the section at North Hills on Friday and at home against Plum on Monday.

Penn Hills’ playoff hopes dimmed somewhat with Monday’s loss. The Indians fell to 3-5 overall and 1-5 in the section.

Despite that, Penn Hills coach Ashley Banner was encouraged by the way her team kept battling. The Indians had just nine players available for Monday’s game.

“We talked about some of the good things we’ve seen and the positive feedback we’re getting from opposing coaches, other teams and the umpires about the way we carry ourselves,” Banner said. “With some of these games, they’re not giving up. They continue to fight, whether it’s at the plate or in the field. We only struck out three times. We put the ball in play and forced them to make plays, and they made the plays.”

Olbrich said his players gained a measure of momentum in Friday’s 5-1 loss to section front-runner Shaler. The Titans had not been scored upon in eight games coming into the matchup with the Foxes.

“Yes, it was a loss, but you could see the girls figure it out,” Olbrich said. “It was a big confidence boost for the girls, and it carried over to today’s game. Being the first team this season to score on Shaler, they rode that a little bit. We didn’t talk about that in the dugout, but they knew because they watch the scoreboard, and they saw what Shaler had done.”

Penn Hills had only three batters reach base. The only hit came with two outs in the second inning as Hannah Pugliese singled.

However, Haigh induced Hailey Brewer to tap a harmless comebacker to her for a soft toss to first for the third out. Eleven of the 15 Penn Hills outs came on infield grounders, including five to Haigh.

Haigh only threw 48 pitches in her five innings of work. She walked one walk and struck out three.

The Fox Chapel offense got Haigh all the run support she needed in the bottom of the first with two runs on three hits. Ella Eisner and Summer Burkhart knocked in runs with a ground out and a single.

The Foxes added on with a run in the second, five in the third and three more in the fourth.

Not much went right for Penn Hills in the bottom of the third, while Fox Chapel pretty much could do no wrong.

The five runs in the frame were all unearned as the Foxes offense pounced on three Penn Hills errors while collecting four hits and a pair of walks.

“Everything worked for us in that inning,” Dunleavy said. “We took advantage of some things and also kept hitting.”

Stocker, Haigh and junior Adina Rosen added RBIs in the win.

Of Fox Chapel’s 11 hits, only one was for extra bases. Stocker delivered an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth.

“From the beginning of the season, when we preached trusting each other, we wanted to them to make the plays and pass that down the line,” Olbrich said. “It’s been about teamwork and being a good teammate. We saw it click today. The best thing about today is that we passed it down the line. The girls didn’t trying to hit five-run homers. They just kept it going for the next girls coming up. Hopefully, that can continue through these next couple of section games.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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