With Griffin back in circle, Ligonier Valley softball handles Serra Catholic

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Wednesday, April 20, 2022 | 10:15 PM


Senior Maddie Griffin finished with 15 strikeouts and a three-hit performance at the dish to help lead Ligonier Valley to a 7-2 victory over Serra Catholic in Section 2-2A play Wednesday afternoon in McKeesport.

Griffin, a Youngstown State commit who helped guide the Rams to a state championship game appearance a year ago, allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits. She didn’t walk a batter and struck out eight of the first nine hitters she faced. Her command was on point as she threw 73 of her 85 pitches for strikes.

“Maddie recently hurt her ankle and she’s been down for a couple of weeks. This was her first game back, and she wasn’t feeling too good about herself before the game,” Ligonier Valley coach Mark Zimmerman said. “I thought she really fought hard. She hit her spots, and while they started sitting on the outside for her to come inside, she still did her job for us. She’s just a really tough kid.”

After three scoreless frames to start, the Rams (6-2, 5-0) managed to give Griffin some run support by striking first with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth inning.

Lyla Barr led things off with a single to center field before Natalie Bizup lined one into left. The ball snuck past Serra left fielder Ava Wos, allowing Barr to come all the way home with the game’s first run.

After a sacrifice bunt by Neve Dowden and a bunt single by Zoe Plummer, Griffin delivered at the top of the lineup with an RBI single up the middle to push the Rams’ lead to 2-0.

That advantage swelled to three in the top of the sixth when a bunt single by Griffin was followed by a sacrifice bunt by Ruby Wallace. Sydney Foust was intentionally walked and Cheyenne Piper blooped a run-scoring single into shallow left-center field for a 3-0 edge.

“We work at just trying to get a run here and a run there, and pretty soon, you’ll have a lead that you can feel pretty good about, especially with Maddie pitching,” said Zimmerman, whose team finished with 10 hits in the win. “We left some girls out there we would have liked to have brought in, but we executed pretty well.”

Serra Catholic (5-4, 3-2) was limited to just one hit off Griffin – a fourth-inning bunt single by Lida Wos – in the opening five frames.

The sixth inning, however, brought with it a bit of two-out magic for the Eagles.

After Griffin induced a flyout and picked up her 12th strikeout of the contest, Serra leadoff hitter Caroline Malandra got things started with a single down the left-field line. Lida Wos followed with an infield single before a bloop single to right by Olivia Gergely allowed Malandra to score from second and cut the deficit to 3-1.

“I felt like we needed to just break one through,” Serra Catholic coach Denny Willaman said. “We just needed a bloop or something to get one. We were running on all those pitches, and I knew we would score one. Once that hit by Liv fell, I think everyone took a little breath.”

One batter later, Tori Tom hit a sharp grounder to Piper at short. She delivered a low throw to first baseman Peyton LaVale and she was unable to pick it out of the dirt, giving Lida Wos the chance to score and make it a one-run game.

“I’ve coached for over 20 years and there is just something about this team that I love. I really can’t explain it,” Willaman said. “They’re a confident group, and I thought we played our butts off today. The last inning kinda took the wind out of our sails, but I’m very proud of the way they fought back.”

A four-run top of the seventh inning did indeed put a damper on the energetic mood of the Eagles.

Madisyn Zigarovich picked up two quick strikeouts to begin the inning before three runners reached on a walk to Dowden, an error by second baseman Maria Goldstein and an infield single by Griffin. One batter later, Ruby Wallace lifted a fly ball to left field, but it was misplayed by Ava Wos for a bases-clearing error that turned a one-run deficit into a more insurmountable one.

“Mistakes happen,” said Willaman, whose team finished with five errors in the loss. “We’re still very young, and the girls are trying their best.”

Wallace later scored on an RBI double by Foust, who matched Griffin with a three-hit effort. Barr contributed with a pair in the win.

Despite allowing seven runs on 10 hits and four walks, Zigarovich was still solid in the circle for the Eagles. Only three of those runs were earned and she finished with five strikeouts.

“Maddie has pitched unbelievable for us this year,” Willaman said. “Every game she has gotten better and today she hit did a nice job of hitting her spots.”

Serra Catholic is scheduled to travel to Jeannette on Thursday, while Ligonier Valley will play at Apollo-Ridge.

“They fought back, but we hung in there today,” Zimmerman said. “It was two good teams going at it. That’s just the type of game it was.”

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