Trib HSSN Softball Team of the Week for the week ending June 20, 2022

Monday, June 20, 2022 | 9:28 PM

Perfection is hard to achieve.

Yet, three high school teams from Pennsylvania had the talent, combined it with a strong work ethic and got some bounces here and there to win district and state championships with an undefeated record: Martinsburg Central baseball, Pittston Area softball and Neshannock softball.

The Lancers closed out their perfect season by winning the PIAA Class 2A championship at Penn State.

“To be very honest, this perfect season was not something I imagined was going to happen,” Neshannock coach Jackie Lash said. “This is a fairly young team. I knew we would be good, but I just didn’t realize exactly how good we would be. We got a very late start in getting our team together in March due to six of our players being on the PIAA (basketball) championship team, and we had some problems with our new field, so my stress level was high right from the start of the season simply because I felt that these few delays were causing us to have a tough start to our season. As we started to jam games into a few short weeks, I began to see that this is a very special group of athletes.”

After winning the program’s third WPIAL crown and beating OLSH and Johnsonburg in the first two rounds of the PIAA playoffs, Neshannock met a familiar foe in section rival Laurel in the state semifinals.

“Facing Laurel for a fourth time caused a bit of concern, but we knew we just needed to go into that game with full focus, give our best effort and play like we know how to play,” Lash said. “They are a strong team with an awesome pitcher who has a great supporting cast. In my opinion, I felt that there was only one team who could beat us in these state playoffs, and that team was Laurel. Coach Frank Duddy and his players are always going to give us a battle.”

The Spartans definitely battled, taking a 5-2 lead into the fifth inning before Neshannock rallied for six runs in the fifth and five more in the seventh.

“With two outs, we had a never-quit attitude by the entire lineup and had several consecutive base hits,” Lash said. “This big inning included everything that was needed to take the lead in this game, aggressive base running sparked the rally, timely hits by several batters and discipline at the plate which forced walks, and then baserunners who scored on passed balls. Once we gained the lead, our girls played in a more relaxed manner and continued to give their best effort.”

In the semifinals win, the Nogay sisters — senior Neleh and junior Aaralyn — combined to go 5 for 10 with six RBIs, including an inside-the-park home run by Aaralyn.

While both have produced on the field, Lash points to the sisters providing stability on a young team that continues to mature.

“Having players like Neleh and Aaralyn on the team is extremely valuable. The other players truly look up to them. Offensively, Neleh and Aaralyn set the tone for the rest of the team. Defensively, we know that if a ball is hit anywhere in the area of Aaralyn or Neleh, the play is going to be made. Teammates have so much trust in Neleh and Aaralyn, and the sisters have equal trust in their teammates.”

One more hurdle stood in the way of history for Neshannock, as they would face District 12 champion Conwell-Egan in the PIAA 2A final.

The Lancers took the early lead when Aaralyn Nogay scored on an error and sophomore Gabby Perod singled home freshman Addy Frye to go up, 2-0.

After the Eagles scored in the third inning to cut the lead in half, Neshannock freshman Gabby Quinn launched a two-run homer in the fifth inning to provide the game’s final runs and the Lancers their second state softball crown on the 10-year anniversary of their first PIAA title.

“Gabby’s two run homer in the fifth inning solidified our lead. With Hunter Newman on second after hitting a hard hit ball to right field, Gabby timed her swing perfectly and drove the ball deep over the left field wall,” Lash said. “Our offensive success in that inning seemed to fire up the girls and helped them finish that game in a more relaxed manner.”

In the semifinals and title game victories, Neleh Nogay had five hits and four RBIs, Quinn had four hits and four RBIs, Aaralyn Nogay had four hits and two RBIs and the junior Newman had four hits and an RBIs.

As she has all year, Frye was dominant in the circle, allowing four hits while striking out three to finish her freshman season with a record of 20-0.

Despite carrying an undefeated record into the postseason, Lash said the perfect record wasn’t discussed much.

“Our approach from the start of the season has been to just focus on one game at a time,” Lash said. “We never really focused on the fact that we had a perfect season happening. It wasn’t until the night before our PIAA championship game where we talked to the players about ending the season and being undefeated, and that conversation was more about knowing that we couldn’t take any team lightly and we couldn’t take anything for granted.”

Like so many of the successful softball programs around the WPIAL this season, Neshannock returns many talented underclassmen. But for now, Lash and the Lancers are going to enjoy the golden fruits of their labor.

“This was an incredible season. We are so proud of our players, and we are thrilled that all of our hard work paid off. It was exciting to see that this young team has the focus and work ethic of champions. Being able to work with a team like this has been a phenomenal experience for my coaching staff and for me. The support from the community was also amazing, and we truly appreciate that support.

“I will admit that this is also a bittersweet season because we lose one amazing senior and that’s Neleh Nogay. We know that she can never be replaced. We do gain some great freshman players next year who are anxious to join this amazing team. I foresee great things ahead for the Neshannock softball program.”

2022 Trib HSSN Softball Teams of the Week

Week 10 – Seneca Valley Raiders

Week 9 – Union Scotties

Week 8 – Elizabeth Forward Warriors

Week 7 – Bentworth Bearcats

Week 6 – Waynesburg Central Raiders

Week 5 – Charleroi Cougars

Week 4 – West Allegheny Indians

Week 3 – Avonworth Antelopes

Week 2 – Pine-Richland Rams

Week 1 – Ligonier Valley Rams

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