Southmoreland shakes off slow start, beats McGuffey in Class 3A 1st round

Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | 7:11 PM

Southmoreland got off to a rocky start in its WPIAL Class 3A first-round playoff game against McGuffey on Tuesday, but the Scotties made a few plays at key moments and came away with a 3-1 victory.

First, the Scotties had some directional problems, and their bus arrived later than expected at Waynesburg University’s multi-sport diamond. Coach Todd Bunner felt that caused some rushed warmup routines before the game that may have affected the team.

McGuffey (8-7) came out swinging against Southmoreland pitcher Maddie Brown and seemed to have the Scotties on the ropes in the top of the first.

Julie Barr led the game off with a double to deep center field, followed by singles from Cadence Jack and Katie Grimm. Barr scored and the Highlanders had Jack and Grimm on first and third with no outs.

Roxie Painter slashed a tailing line drive to right field that Bea Pawlikowsky ran down, then threw to Kaylee Doppelheuer at first base to double up Grimm. When Brown got a pop up to end the threat, a potentially disastrous start had been avoided.

“I was a little nervous. The ball had a little curve to it,” Pawlikowsky said. “I was just excited to get the out at first.”

With two outs into the bottom of the first, Bunner told Amarah McCutcheon, “You know coach isn’t happy about some things that have happened, so take it out on the ball.”

McCutcheon did, driving McGuffey pitcher McKenna Crothers’ first pitch over the left-field fence to tie the score.

But Crothers handcuffed many of the Scotties with a mix of speeds that led to seven strikeouts over the course of the game.

In the bottom of the third, another turning point led to a 2-1 lead for the Scotties. Brown led off with a single and freshman Maddie Lucia was sent in to run for the pitcher. Lucia stole second with an alert slide away from the tag by Mia Couture, and Makayla Etling’s two-out single drove in Lucia.

“I absolutely knew I had to get into scoring position,” Lucia said.

The Scotties made it 3-1 in the fourth when Gwen Basinger reached base on an infield error, Brynn Charnesky singled with one out and a passed ball moved the runners up. With two outs, Brooke McBeth beat out an infield hit by a step as Basinger scored.

“I just ran as fast as I could,” McBeth said. She admitted to not realizing the play resulted in a run until after she returned to the base.

Brown faced some trouble in the top half of the fifth when Katie Henderson doubled, Klover Haverthier singled, and an errant outfield throw moved the runners to second and third.

Brown got a pop up and strikeout before walking Jack to load the bases. She then struck out Grimm to end the threat.

All five of Brown’s strikeouts came in the final four innings and she retired the last seven batters in order.

The outcome was the eighth consecutive opening-round playoff win for Southmoreland (14-2).

Bunner was glad to win but unhappy with how the game started.

“We were behind the eight ball,” he said. “We didn’t have a great warmup and we were rushing around. Maddie (Brown) is a notoriously slow starter, but the kid’s a fighter.”

Of the first-inning double play, Bunner said, “That got us out of the inning. Bad things can happen when runners get on base, and that play was huge for us.”

Bunner said the Scotties will need to have a better start to the next game when they play Ellwood City or Yough in the quarterfinal round Thursday.

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