West Mifflin softball uses speed, power to rally past Franklin Regional

Friday, April 23, 2021 | 8:39 PM

The 1970s Pittsburgh Pirates were billed as Lumber and Lightning for their unique combination of power at the plate and speed on the basepaths.

Nearly a half-century later, the West Mifflin softball team is having success on the diamond with the same mindset.

The Titans hit two home runs, one triple and two doubles to go along with five stolen bases as they came from behind to beat visiting Franklin Regional, 6-3, in a nonsection softball game Friday.

“We were a little sloppy early on with a walk and a little miscommunication on a little flare and we’re in a hole after a three-run home run,” West Mifflin coach Erik Hilligsberg said. “But just like this team’s done, especially this year, they battled back. They’ve shown resiliency and they came back.”

After Franklin Regional sophomore Madison Nguyen hit the three-run homer in the top of the first, the West Mifflin comeback began in the bottom of the inning when senior Lauren Yuhas doubled, stole third base and scored on a throwing error by the catcher.

The Titans made it a one-run game in the second inning thanks to the speed of senior Emma Mackulin, who tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Addison Hilligsberg.

“From being a bunter and slapper, it’s tough because a lot of section opponents know that I like to bunt and slap,” Mackulin said. “Coach told me, ‘You are going to hit (Friday), you’re going to swing the bat,’ and they just fell through today.”

West Mifflin tied the game in the third inning on a solo home run by Lauren Yuhas, her eighth of the season, to straight-away center field.

Yuhas, along with four other West Mifflin seniors, will be honored Saturday on senior rec day.

“I just don’t feel like a senior,” Yuhas said. “Last year we didn’t have a season, so I’m really feeling like a junior right now. It will be a surreal moment, but I’m excited.”

The Titans took the lead for good in the fourth inning when Mackulin doubled, went to third on a fly out and scored on a wild pitch.

Insurance was added in the sixth inning when Hilligsberg smacked a two-run homer.

The sophomore pitched a comple-game five-hitter and seemed to be at her best when she got in trouble, which was often with Franklin Regional getting the leadoff hitter on base in five of the seven innings.

“She was very efficient today,” Hilligsberg said of his niece. “Change-up was working real well. She struggled with the rise ball a little. She left it out over the plate, and they made her pay. They’re a good hitting team.”

Hilligsberg was aided by a strong defensive effort by the Titans. In the third and fourth innings, a double play wiped out leadoff baserunners, including a 4-6-3 above-average twin kill that was started by senior second baseman Allyssa Schmidt.

“Every practice, the infield gets a whole bucket of balls hit to them and the coaches don’t make it easy,” Schmidt said.

“We have a good relationship too, so that definitely helps. We can trust each other,” Schmidt said of Yuhas, her double-play partner.

Since losing to Elizabeth Forward last week, West Mifflin (4-1, 9-1) has won three straight and will face Ringgold in a Section 2-4A game Saturday morning.

Franklin Regional (3-3, 4-5) has now dropped three straight. Panthers junior starting pitcher Alisa Kane allowed three earned runs and four hits in four innings to take the loss.

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