West Allegheny softball rallies past Thomas Jefferson in PIAA semifinals

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 | 10:27 PM

Trailing by a run in the top of the sixth inning, Thomas Jefferson hit what felt like a lethal three-run home run that left two-time WPIAL Class 5A champion West Allegheny wobbling for a standing 8-count, but did not knock them out.

The Indians rallied for four runs in their half of the sixth to beat the Jaguars for the second time in two weeks. The come-from-behind, 7-5 victory lifted West Allegheny into its first PIAA softball championship game.

“Incredibly emotional,” West Allegheny's teary-eyed coach, Mindi McFate, said. “The seniors we have on this team and in this program have meant so much to where this program is at right now. This is my 15th year coaching, and I've been successful, but the way these kids carry themselves on and off the field, that's what builds a program. They play hard, they play together and they are all so incredibly humble.”

The game was scoreless when the Indians' Taylor Goldstrohm launched a two-run homer to score Angela Costa to make it 2-0.

Both teams plated a run in the fourth. Thomas Jefferson scored on an RBI single by Liz Brock that scored Alanna Cleary, who led off the inning with a double. West Allegheny tallied on a run-scoring single by Costa that plated courtesy runner Alyssa Goldstrohm.

The Jaguars closed the gap to 3-2 in the fifth on another RBI single by Brock that scored courtesy runner Alyssa Natter.

That set the stage for a wild sixth inning at Peterswood Park.

With Mckenzie Zang at second and Paige Truax at first with one out, Haleigh Karcher picked a good time for her first home run of the season to put the Jaguars up 5-3. TJ pitcher Bella Bucy then doubled, but the Indians turned an inning-ending double play on a ground ball to shortstop Taylor Cummings, who retired the batter at first, then Indians first baseman Jillian Weber gunned it to third to retire courtesy runner Natter.

That play sparked the district champs as an always-loud dugout turned it up several decibels.

Megan Pollinger led off with a walk and went to third when Amy Nolte's sacrifice bunt was thrown away.

Up came Costa who was 3 for 3. She thought she was hit by a pinch by Bucy, but despite a painful hand, the umpire ordered her back to the batter's box. She then delivered a run-scoring single to right that put runners on the corners with nobody out in a 5-4 game.

After Goldstrohm was intentionally walked to load the bases, back-to-back sacrifice flies by Cummings and MacKenzie Partyka put the Indians ahead for good. Savannah Lewis' single drove home an insurance run for West Allegheny that capped off the four-run rally.

Ashley Seamon nailed down the victory for the Indians in the seventh when with one on and two outs, she got Zang to fly out to Costa.

“Angela's a tough kid, she's a smart kid, she's a competitor and she's only a freshman,” McFate said. “She's battled all year long, and she is a very good player.”

Thomas Jefferson (15-7) won eight of its final 10 games, including five in the district and state postseason, but those two losses were against the Indians in the WPIAL finals and PIAA semifinals.

West Allegheny (23-1) will now face District 3 runner-up Lampeter-Strasburg in the Class 5A state title game at 4 p.m. Thursday at Nittany Lions Park at Penn State.

This Indians softball team will try to become the school's second girls varsity team to win a state championship. The only West Allegheny girls team to win a PIAA crown was the volleyball team in 2006.

Don Rebel is a TribLive High School Sports Network broadcaster and staff writer. Reach him at drebel@tribweb.com.

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