In last Thursday’s PIAA Class 5A quarterfinal victory over WPIAL champion Trinity, Shaler scored all five of its runs on three home runs.
The Titans again used the long ball Monday to produce six of their eight runs against Armstrong in a state semifinal contest at Gateway.
Shaler scored six times in the top of the eighth and held off a furious River Hawks comeback in the bottom of the inning to score an 8-5 victory and punch its ticket to Friday’s state championship game at Penn State.
The Titans will go after the program’s first state title since it won the Class 4A crown in 2006. It will play at 4 p.m. Friday at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Softball Park.
Shaler’s opponent won’t be determined until Tuesday evening. District 2 champion Abington Heights will play District 3 champion Northern York at 6 p.m. Rain washed out Monday’s scheduled matchup.
It has been quite a spring for Shaler sports. The Titan baseball and boys volleyball teams both have PIAA semifinal contests Tuesday with the goal of joining the softball team in the state finals.
Armstrong hoped to reach the state championship game for the third year in a row and bring home its first title, but the River Hawks, the WPIAL runner-up, concluded its season at 21-3.
“It is too bad that our journey has to end, as anything short of getting back to Penn State with this group of girls is a disappointment,” Armstrong coach Keith Shaffer said.
Despite an 8-2 deficit, Armstrong didn’t fold. Senior Emma Smerick launched a solo home run off of Shaler freshman starter Bria Bosiljevac to lead off the bottom of the eighth.
Armstrong added runs on solo homers from senior Bella Atherton and junior Jessica Pugh.
Junior Shelby Cloak reached on a three-base outfield error to keep the River Hawk’s hopes alive. But Bosiljevac struck out senior Cassidy Adams looking to end the game.
“The girls came back,” Shaffer said. “They always fight. They never give up. They pounded the ball that last inning. If we would’ve seen a little of that more early, I think we would’ve had a better chance to win the game.”
In addition to her six hits and five walks surrendered, Bosiljevac finished with 13 strikeouts.
Armstrong senior starter Cam Sprankle had scattered five hits over seven innings before Shaler’s eighth-inning uprising. She struck out two and was tagged with six walks.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .