Anna Swierczewski said St. Joseph's seniors want to end their high school softball careers with a bang.
The Spartans certainly started the postseason with one.
Serena Edgar's grand slam highlighted a 12-run first inning as No. 8 St. Joseph blasted Western Beaver, 13-0, in a WPIAL Class A first-round game Monday evening at Fox Chapel.
“(It's) relieving to get the first one over with,” said Swierczewski, who doubled twice and drove in three runs in the decisive first inning, during which the Spartans sent 15 batters to the plate and scored a dozen runs on eight hits and a walk. “You go in with nerves because playoffs bring nerves, but (I'm) happy to be here. It's a good time.”
St. Joseph (11-4), the Section 3-A runner-up, didn't seem to be suffering from any nerves. The Spartans, who qualified for the playoffs for the first time last season and advanced to the quarterfinals, put Monday's game out of reach early.
“They've been chomping at the bit since we lost to Leechburg (in last week's section finale),” St. Joseph coach Dan Edgar said. “They've been ready to get back out here.”
Part of that is the team's overall experience. Eight of the nine starters played on last season's playoff team, part of a team that has seven seniors.
“We're all really, really motivated this year, especially because of the amount of seniors on the team,” said Swierczewski, a Franciscan recruit. “We want to go out with a bang, so this would be the time to do it.”
St. Joseph led 4-0 before making an out as the Spartans' first seven hitters reached base against Western Beaver starter Mya Hineman. Swierczewski opened the scoring with a two-run double, Courtney Fogle added a run-scoring single and Ava Swanson drew a bases-loaded walk.
After Chloe Kurpakus drew another bases-loaded walk with one out, Edgar — the 10th batter of the inning — chased Hineman from the game with a shot over the wall in left-center, making the score 9-0.
It was the first career grand slam for Edgar, a Muskingum recruit, and just the second time she cleared the wall with one of her home runs.
“It's crazy,” Edgar said. “I've never seen us do that before. I'm really proud of everyone. It's definitely contagious. We feed off each other, and we get along so well.”
Western Beaver replaced Hineman with Brooke McCanna, the team's ace pitcher, but St. Joseph scored three more times off her in the first.
Swierczewski, Shelby Gogal and Fogle added the final three RBIs of the inning, and Alex Jones drove in Swanson with a groundout in the second for the final run.
That proved more than enough run support for Gogal in the circle. The junior yielded just two hits in her five innings, striking out three.
“The first inning was very negative,” Western Beaver coach Kristen Hultquist said. “We had to switch some things. A lot of that, I wonder if it was just nerves, too. But the first inning, I think if that wouldn't have happened, we probably would have been right with them.”
St. Joseph advanced to the Class A quarterfinals, where the Spartans will meet top-seeded West Greene (16-4), the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion, at a site, day and time to be determined.
“Might as well go after the big dog while we're here,” Edgar said. “They're going to be tough. They're loaded. But we'll hit them with everything we have.”