Sandra Soltes’ 2 home runs lead Bethel Park to 1st WPIAL softball title

Thursday, June 3, 2021 | 4:50 PM

The Bethel Park softball team remained undefeated in grand style.

Junior catcher Sandra Soltes smacked two home runs, including a first-inning grand slam that put the Black Hawks up for good in a 9-2 win over Canon-McMillan in the WPIAL Class 6A championship game Thursday afternoon at Cal U’s Lilley Field.

“From the time we stepped off the bus and she was getting ready, I walked up to her and asked if she was ready to go and she said, ‘Coach, I’m ready to go,’” Bethel Park coach Heather Scott said of Soltes. “Sandra doesn’t show much nerve. She learned from a young age to just keep the nerves down. Sandra was focused.”

Soltes focus produced a title game performance for the ages.

The Pitt recruit was 3 for 4 with two home runs, three runs scored and eight RBIs.

Soltes was asked if she could ever dream about having this kind of game on a championship stage.

“I honestly did not, not at all,” Soltes said. “It’s awesome knowing that I did that.”

After a scoreless top of the first inning for Canon-McMillan, Big Macs senior pitcher Laurel Duke battled with her control in the bottom of the inning, walking two of the first three Black Hawks hitters, then hitting Ohio State recruit Reagan Milliken with a pitch to load the bases.

Up stepped Soltes, and she launched a grand slam over the left field fence to put BP up, 4-0.

“She was OK in the middle (innings), but the first inning was a little bit of a disaster,” Canon-McMillan coach Michele Moeller said about Duke. “You can’t not feel (nerves) when you’re out there. She knows it, and then she’s beating herself up because of the walks.”

Duke only allowed two hits and a walk in the next three innings while her Canon-McMillan teammates chipped away at the four-run deficit.

Senior Hailey Freeman doubled and scored on a MacKenzie Adams single in the Big Macs’ third inning, then Freeman doubled in the fourth inning, scoring Elika Mowery to make it 4-2 Bethel Park.

The fifth inning was a difference maker in the outcome.

Trailing by two runs, seniors Olivia Ulam and Abby Allen singled with one out and a sacrifice bunt moved both into scoring position, but Bethel Park pitcher Delaney Nagy retired Eli Kotar on a sharply hit ground ball to second to end the rally.

In the bottom of the inning, the Black Hawks chased Duke when Soltes singled home Gianna Sciullo and Milliken. Soltes eventually scored on a wild pitch to make it 7-2.

That set the stage for one final Soltes highlight for the Hawks. She hit a two-run homer off Big Macs reliever Brooke Perri to provide the final two runs in the sixth inning.

“The first (homer) was kind of middle-out. The second one was a changeup right down the middle,” Soltes said of her two homers.

The start of the game was delayed 2½ hours by rain, but the top-seeded Black Hawks didn’t mind the wait. The WPIAL 6A softball championship is the first in school history for Bethel Park, 40 years after playing and losing in its first WPIAL softball finals to North Hills in 1981.

“Awesome, the first time in school history,” Scott said. “The girls, in the back of their minds, knew that going in. We just played our game like we’ve done all season. It’s a great feeling.”

Few thought Canon-McMillan (9-10) would reach the title game after finishing in third place in Section 1-6A behind Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon and being seeded No. 6 in the eight-team 6A playoffs.

The Big Macs will face District 6 champion Mifflin County in the first round of the PIAA postseason Monday.

Bethel Park (18-0) will face the third-place team from District 3, Penn Manor, on Monday as they play for state gold in what is still a perfect season.

“It doesn’t even cross our minds, being undefeated,” Soltes said. “We don’t play like we’re undefeated. We just want to go out and win every single game.”

Watch an archived video stream broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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