Undefeated Shaler dominates short-handed Franklin Regional

Wednesday, May 17, 2023 | 10:31 PM

Strike out 16, club a couple of home runs and sell the underdog role, and watch any team sprint forward in a playoff bracket.

That sure was the right mix for unbeaten Shaler on Wednesday in the WPIAL Class 5A softball quarterfinals.

“Those are the staples,” coach Tom Sorce said after his second-seeded Titans blanked No. 7 Franklin Regional, 7-0, at Gateway.

Freshman pitcher Brian Bosiljevac struck out 16 and limited the Panthers to three hits as Shaler moved to 18-0 and will now face No. 3 Trinity (17-2) in the semifinals.

Trinity beat Latrobe, 13-3, in six innings.

Senior Bethany Rodman, who Sorce calls “the heart and soul of the team,” launched a first-inning grand slam, and senior catcher Eloise Facher added a two-run shot as Shaler set a team record for wins.

“Their pitcher is really good,” Franklin Regional coach Jim Armstrong said. “We couldn’t get her. The grand slam right off the bat, that was bad. ”

Franklin Regional played without starting pitcher Carli Ramchandran, a senior who injured her knee in the first round against Moon. Armstrong said she tore her ACL.

Strangely, the same thing happened last year before the teams met in the first round when Ranchandran sustained a wrist injury and could not face the Titans. Shaler won 14-6 with Ramchandran on the shelf.

Freshman Chloe Lancaster got the start this time, and the Panthers’ future ace can chalk up some key experience.

Pitching was one thing, but the offense was absent.

“I never wanted to play that team,” Sorce said of the Panthers, who hit 30 home runs this season. “They are a hard-hitting team. They usually hit it out.

“It’s a shame (Ramchandran) was hurt again. Jim does a great job with that team.”

Sorce continues to watch his freshman pitcher develop into an ace.

“She is 14 years old,” he said. “But she plays like she is 20. She has thrown 50 innings and has 108 K’s.”

Facher’s homer to center in the fourth made it 6-0.

Franklin Regional loaded the bases in the sixth with no outs. Senior Sydney Jackson, who made a highlight, tip-catch in center earlier, doubled to open the inning. Senior Maddie Nguyen added a single, but Bosiljevac picked up two more K’s and a groundout to quash the threat.

The Titans made it 7-0 in the sixth when senior Maya Simunovic doubled and swiped home on a double-steal.

Sophomore Toryn Fulton tripled for the Panthers’ first hit. Three Panthers struck out at least three times each.

“We just couldn’t get it going,” Armstrong said. “It’s sad for our six seniors. This is the covid class, so they only got three years. I a super proud of them.”

The Titans are the first team in program history to go unbeaten in the regular season.

“Nobody expected this,” Sorce said. “I know people were picking us to lose in the first round or this round. “To be honest, I would have bet a million dollars we wouldn’t be 18-0.”

Senior Chrissy Sciullo had two hits in the win.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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