Coming into Wednesday’s game, Upper St. Clair and Peters Township were tied for fourth place in Section 1-6A with 3-2 records.
But on the Boyce-Mayview Park field on this particular afternoon, the Panthers and Indians were worlds apart.
Trailing 1-0, Upper St. Clair scored five runs in the third inning and added eight more in the fourth to cruise past Peters Township, 13-1, in a game that was ended by the mercy rule in the fifth inning.
“I knew going in that we had a team that could compete and win this game,” USC second-year coach Bill Aguglia said. “We gave a goal for the girls this week to go 3-0, and we beat Brashear on Monday and we got Peters today, and we have Mt. Lebanon Friday. I know that’s our road to the playoffs. That’s our goal.”
Six juniors had 11 of the team’s 14 hits to help the Panthers cleared the second of those hurdles.
One of those hot-swinging juniors is left fielder Grace Swigart, who had two hits, two runs scored and drove in three runs out of the cleanup spot.
“I know that if I don’t get a hit, the No. 5 batter is going to pick me up, and if she doesn’t get a hit, the No. 6 batter is going to pick her up,” Swigart said.
Peters Township scored first with two outs in the first inning. Madison Morgan singled, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Alex Bondi.
The Indians would not score again despite the fact that they had multiple runners on base in their final three innings. Danielle Orendi buckled down to secure the win.
“Dani is our ace, she’s our go-to,” Aguglia said. “In years past, it would have been walk a couple batters, have a couple errors and the wheels fall off. But, this year we bear down, and our big motto is we take care of each other. When there are walks, the defense picks you up. When there’s errors, Dani will pick you up.”
Orendi yielded four hits, walked three and struck out seven in her five innings of work.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the third, the USC bats came to life in a big way.
Grace Swigart put the Panthers up for good with a two-run single that scored Paige Stevenson and Zoe Malone. Then, with two outs, Maddie Andrejcik doubled home two and scored on a run-scoring single by Karri Albertini to make it 5-1.
After sending nine players to the plate in the third inning, Upper St. Clair followed by sending 13 batters to the plate in the fourth with eight of those batters coming around to score.
Stevenson, Malone and Swigart drove in runs in the big fourth inning, while Alex Wunderlich drove home three with a pair of hits in the inning. One run scored on an error and one on a wild pitch.
The win improved the Panthers to 4-2 and puts them in a tie for third place with Canon-McMillan with the midway point of section play on Friday. That might not be a big deal for some teams, but for a USC squad that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 1999, they are ready to break the 20-year postseason drought.
“My freshman year, the mentality was not there,” Swigart said. “We all had a mentality that we weren’t that good of a team. We had talent, we just weren’t showing it on the field. I think last year, we showed it a little bit, but this year, we have that winning mentality.”
Aguglia admitted he’s happy with his team, but there is still a lot of season and work left to do.
“The future is bright,” he said. “It’s been a long time since this school has been in the playoffs. When I was brought in last year, that was my main goal; now we’re halfway there.”