Southmoreland softball downs Deer Lakes in WPIAL playoff opener

Thursday, May 16, 2019 | 7:43 PM

Southmoreland’s WPIAL Class 3A title defense started on a strong note.

The Scotties shook off an inconsistent regular season Thursday as they defeated Deer Lakes, 10-2, at Shaler’s Hilltop Field to open the WPIAL softball tournament.

“It felt pretty good to get this win,” Southmoreland pitcher Jess Matheny said. “We came in knowing that the past is the past, but we came into the playoffs with a positive mentality. We had good defense, and we had really good hitting today. We’ve been struggling the last few games. Hopefully, we can get on a roll right now. Last year, we clicked in the first playoff game. Hopefully, we can do it now.”

Southmoreland, which graduated only one starter from last year’s title team, finished the regular season with a 9-6 mark and a No. 9 seed for the WPIAL tournament. However, the Scotties are 1-0 in the postseason, and that’s what they care about most.

“It’s been a tough year,” Southmoreland coach Todd Bunner said. “When you’re defending champion, everyone comes for you and everyone plays their best. You have to stay healthy, and we haven’t been as healthy. We’ve been fighting through some injuries that we still have. I’m not saying that’s the only reason — we’ve struggled a little bit this year, at times. Today, they showed up. If they play like that, the rest of the teams need to look out.”

The Lancers (9-8) took a 1-0 lead in the first when Katrina Taliani doubled and scored on a Hannah Mass single.

Southmoreland responded in the top of the third with three runs. Tyson Martin and Matheny both had RBI singles, and Lexi Klatt notched a sacrifice fly.

Deer Lakes trimmed the deficit to 3-2 in the bottom of the third when Makayla Blair belted an RBI single.

However, the Scotties pulled away in the top of the fifth with a pair of runs. Matheny clubbed an RBI triple and scored on Klatt’s second sacrifice fly. Charity Henderson doubled home a run in the sixth, and they added four more insurance runs in the seventh to seal the win.

“It was the best game they’ve played, so far, and they waited until the playoffs to start, so that’s good,” Bunner said. “We didn’t have any errors, and Jess was in command on the mound. When we needed hits with girls on base, we drove them in.”

Matheny and Henderson led the way at the plate for Southmoreland, which plays top-seeded Avonworth (17-2) in Monday’s quarterfinals, with three hits. Matheny earned the pitching win. The sophomore lefty struck out seven.

“I felt pretty good. My adrenaline was going,” she said. “I was confident out there with the eight other girls behind me.”

Taliani, the Lancers’ lone senior, and Lydia Guthrie had a double and a single each to pace the offense.

“We’re a young team. We have one senior, Katrina, and one sophomore, four freshmen and three juniors,” Deer Lakes coach Craig Taliani said. “We have that mix of experience. We have some girls coming up from our middle school program, too, so we hope to be able to make a little deeper run in the playoffs next year.

“The girls understand what it’s all about. When you get to this point, the little things matter. You have to sweat the small stuff. I think that was maybe a little bit of a factor today. Southmoreland hit the ball well, and they are a very well-coached team. That’s why they are defending champions.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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