Smith’s pitching, pair of homers lead Penn-Trafford softball past Shaler

Thursday, May 19, 2022 | 8:45 PM

Mia Smith was concerned she might not pitch well Thursday because she had a shaky warmup session on an adjacent field at Plum.

When game time arrived, though, the Penn-Trafford senior was practically unhittable.

Funny how the best ones can lock in on the biggest stages.

“Watch out when she gets that look in her eye,” Penn-Trafford coach Denny Little said. “She had that look in her eye today.”

Smith, a hard-throwing right-hander, struck out 13, walked one and allowed just three hits as No. 2 seed Penn-Trafford cruised to a 5-0 victory over No. 10 Shaler in a WPIAL Class 5A softball quarterfinal playoff game.

The Warriors (17-2) advance to play No. 11 Chartiers Valley (15-4), which upset No. 3 Trinity, 6-5, in Tuesday’s semifinal at a time and site to be announced. Penn-Trafford also qualified for the PIAA playoffs.

It will be the second semifinal appearance in three seasons for the 2019 PIAA champions.

“It’s nice because this guarantees us at least three more games,” Little said.

Smith’s 40th career victory was backlit by home runs from junior Kylee Piconi and senior Hannah Allen, who helped give her a cushion with early offense.

Senior catcher Maddie Rapp’s glove was popping as Smith threw heat at the Titans.

“I was hitting my spots,” said Smith, a Pitt-Johnstown commit who improved to 17-2 this season and 40-6 for her three-year career. “I didn’t care about speed. I wholeheartedly believe defense and pitching is what wins games.”

Smith had her high-ball working and was painting the outside corner with regularity as she caught five Shaler (16-4) hitters looking.

She has 50 strikeouts looking this season.

“That is a lot of backwards K’s,” Little said. “I have been very blessed to have her for four years. She works hard and deserves everything she gets. She has been great for us.”

Piconi, the second hitter of the game for the Warriors, hit a solo home run to open the scoring.

Another long ball left the short field at Plum in the second when Allen cleared the fence for a two-run shot and a 3-0 lead. Freshman Cam Ponko led off the inning with a single.

“We played a scrimmage here earlier in the year, and we hit seven home runs,” said Piconi, who also homered in the Warriors’ 10-0 first-round win over Plum at Norwin. “We wanted to give Mia room to do her work. We want to keep winning for the seniors.”

Penn-Trafford, which has three straight shutouts — nine for the season — added to its lead with two more runs in the third.

Piconi, who went 3 for 3, bunted for a single, and sophomore Mack Keenan followed with a infield hit that took a high bounce off the turf. Two batters later, Ponko ripped a two-run double for a 5-0 advantage.

Ponko was 2 for 3 for the Warriors, who had nine hits.

Smith retired the first 11 batters before scattering three harmless singles. Shaler never got a runner to third.

“Seeding doesn’t mean anything,” Smith said. “Shaler was the 10, but it didn’t matter. We knew we still had to be on top of our game.”

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

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