Southmoreland softball sluggers knock off 2nd-seeded North Catholic

Thursday, May 20, 2021 | 6:58 PM

The Southmoreland softball team didn’t waste any time setting the tone for Thursday’s WPIAL Class 3A second-round playoff game. The No. 7 Scotties took a three-run lead in the first inning and held second-seeded North Catholic at bay late in the game to advance with an 11-5 victory at Gateway High School.

“The girls were ready to play. We’re a hitting team, No. 1, and with our attitude the way it’s been, they’re ready to strike the ball,” Southmoreland coach Todd Bunner said. “They’re excited about it, and it’s nice when you can put runs up right away.”

Jess Matheny got aboard when her hit to third was mishandled, and Amarah McCutcheon rocketed a home run to left-center to quickly put the Scotties ahead by two. Then, Emily Eutsey doubled and scored on Brynn Charnesky’s sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.

“That kid just brings it every day,” Bunner said of McCutcheon. “She practices hard, she works hard, and you can see it when she steps up to bat.”

In the third inning, Matheny tripled and scored on Eutsey’s single to right. In the fourth, Gwen Basinger singled to right-center, and Bethany Stratton followed with a base hit to center. Tyson Martin’s groundout brought in Basinger, and Stratton crossed the plate on Matheny’s bunt single.

Meanwhile, Matheny kept the Trojans in check from the circle. She didn’t allow a baserunner until the bottom of the fifth, when Southmoreland threw the ball around a little, allowing Abbie Sutton to reach first and score North Catholic’s first run of the game.

Down 6-1, the Trojans (11-5) tried to rally, but the Scotties managed to stay a step ahead. Matheny and McCutcheon hit back-to-back singles in the top of the sixth, heading home when Eutsey got aboard on an error.

North Catholic answered in the bottom of the frame, as Lexi Mannella capitalized on a Southmoreland miscue to reach first. Liana Morreale singled up the middle, and Anna Zahorchak singled in Mannella. Sutton grounded out, but Morreale scored on the play to make it an 8-3 game.

Southmoreland (11-4) capped its offensive day with three runs in the seventh. Basinger singled to start things off, stealing second and third. She headed home when the ball was overthrown to third base. Gabriella Grabiak and Martin took consecutive walks, and both crossed the plate on Matheny’s double to center.

“What a kid,” Bunner said of Matheny. “She’ll give you everything she has. She’s just one heck of an athlete.”

The Trojans weren’t quite done, as Liliana Koller and Gianna Timko singled and scored in the bottom of the seventh. But it was too late, as the Scotties walked away with the win.

“They fought hard. They never gave up,” North Catholic coach Anthony Conforti said. “Liana (Morreale) pitched pretty good. We faced a good team in Southmoreland, without a doubt. They’re a very good team, and they’ve got a good pitcher. She kept us off balance.”

Jamie Rankin is a contributing writer for the Tribune-Review.

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