Thomas Jefferson wins battle of double-digit seeds against Latrobe, earns spot in 5A final

Thursday, May 23, 2024 | 12:09 AM

A pair of double-digit softball seeds waited overtime Wednesday night for a chance to meet No. 1 Armstrong in the WPIAL Class 5A championship game next week.

After a delayed start of 1 hour and 20 minutes, No. 10 Thomas Jefferson earned a shot at the River Hawks with a 4-2 victory over No. 11 Latrobe in the third game of a playoff tripleheader at Gateway.

Aubrey Shaffer pitched a four-hitter and Adalina Bracco’s two-run single sparked a three-run second-inning uprising for Thomas Jefferson (11-7), which sent Latrobe (11-11) into the third-place consolation game against No. 4 Penn-Trafford.

Layla Patterson also had two RBIs for Thomas Jefferson.

“We’re just happy with where we are right now,” Thomas Jefferson coach Heidi Karcher said.

The Jaguars, who won a WPIAL championship in 2014, weren’t so fortunate in their most recent semifinals appearance, losing to Mt. Pleasant in 2019.

“It’s time for us to enjoy this,” Karcher said. “Then, we’ll see what next week holds.”

The Class 5A championship and third-place consolation games will be played at PennWest California on a date to be determined.

The game was delayed after Armstrong needed 2½ hours in the opener to beat Penn-Trafford, 8-6, in the other Class 5A semifinal on Emma Paul’s two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the eighth inning before Norwin, in another unusually long affair, upset defending champion Hempfield, 5-2, in the Class 6A title game.

Shaffer finished with five strikeouts and one walk, allowing both Latrobe runs on opposing pitcher Kayla Williams’ fourth-inning homer and sixth-inning sacrifice fly.

“Aubrey is always composed. Nothing really rattles her,” Karcher said. “She works her butt off, and that’s something good pitchers do.”

Thomas Jefferson lost senior right fielder Emma DeSimone for the WPIAL championship game after she was ejected in the Jaguars’ three-run second for “malicious contact” while being thrown out at home plate.

Karcher briefly protested and said afterwards that she planned to discuss the matter with Thomas Jefferson athletic director Bill Cherpak.

“It’s my understanding she won’t be permitted to play against Armstrong,” Karcher said. “We have each other’s backs and we’re playing for each other. It’s a testament to the whole team that we didn’t fold when our feathers got ruffled.”

Shaffer rode Thomas Jefferson’s second-inning burst that was just enough offense for the Jaguars, who managed just four hits against the hard-luck loser Williams, who was hampered with seven walks. She also struck out five.

Williams’ wildness aside, Latrobe coach Bob Kovalcin said the Wildcats needed more offense to have a chance.

“Four hits each. One error each. Good ballgame,” he said. “They got the timely hit when they needed it and we didn’t. We weren’t as good, as disciplined at the plate as we should have been. That was our downfall tonight.”

Patterson’s RBI double in the fourth gave Thomas Jefferson a 4-1 lead after Williams belted her home run in the top of the inning to put Latrobe on the board.

Patterson’s bases-loaded walk in the second provided the Jaguars with their first run before Bracco’s single brought home two more.

Kovalcin said Latrobe won’t dwell on the loss.

“We have two more games left, for sure,” he said. “We’ll go back to practice on Friday and start working on (preparation for) Penn-Trafford.”

All four Class 5A semifinalists already had qualified for the PIAA playoffs with victories in the quarterfinals.

Macie McHugh led Latrobe with two of the Wildcats’ four hits, including a double.

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