WEXFORD — The DuBois Central Catholic softball team saw another magical season come to an end at the hands of West Greene Monday, as the Lady Pioneers beat DCC for the second straight year in the PIAA semifinals at North Allegheny High School to reach the Class A state finals.
West Greene knocked off DCC, 5-2, in last year’s semifinals, but Monday’s matchup turned into more of a slugfest that saw the Lady Pioneers (25-1) come away with a 9-5 victory.
Central Catholic (23-2) actually outhit West Greene, 12-11, in the game, but the Lady Pioneers ripped three key extra base hits — a double, triple and home run — that accounted for six runs in helping the WPIAL champs jump out to a 7-2 lead after four innings.
Conversely, Central Catholic struggled to come up with the big hit with runners on base, as DCC finished the game with 11 singles. Sophomore Ashley Wruble did have a clutch two-out, two-run single in the third to get DCC on the scoreboard.
Central got its lone extra base hit in the bottom of the seventh when senior Jordy Frank blasted a two-run home run off the scoreboard in center to set the eventual final at 9-5.
The Lady Cardinals got half its hits from two players — junior Sabrina Spencer and senior Macey Hanes — from back-to-back spots in the order.
Spencer, DCC’s No. 9 hitter, went 3-for-3 with a run scored on the day, while Hanes, the leadoff hitter, was 3-for-4 with a run. Senior Libby Maurer (No. 6) went 2-for-3 with a run in her final game, but no other Lady Cardinal had more than one hit.
“We made some blunders that put them in position to score that first run for sure,” said DCC coach George Heigel. “But, I don’t want to spin any type of negativity from this game. We didn’t play our best, but that is a heck of a team. There is a reason they went to the state finals last year, and there is a reason we played them here last year.
“They are good, and they hit, especially their 1-5 batters. They got some help from the bottom end of the order there today. And defensively, they are probably better than they are offensively.”
Central got itself in some trouble in the top of the first, as a pair of outfield errors helped Madison Lampe reach third after a one-out single. It appeared DCC got out of the inning unscathed when Hanes made a sliding catch in center for the final out on a ball hit by Kaitlyn Rizor.
However, as she went to get up and take the ball out of her glove, it came out and umpires ruled it not to be a catch. Lampe scored on what became a RBI single for Rizor that gave West Greene the early 1-0 lead.
Central tried to counter in the bottom half of the first, with Hanes reaching on a leadoff bunt single and Riley Assalone a one-out single to left. But, West Greene starter Jade Renner got Wruble and Shayleigh Gulvas to both foul out to end the inning.
After Assalone retired West Greene in order in the second — two via strikeout —the Lady Pioneers jumped on the DCC senior for three runs in both the third and fourth innings to seize control of the game.
West Greene loaded the bases in the third on a pair of one-out walks and a single by Madison Renner. Rizor then blasted a three-run double to left to push the Lady Pioneers lead to 4-0. Rizor was 4-for-4 with the double and four RBIs on the day.
Assalone got out of the inning without any further damage, and her teammates help get two of those runs back in the bottom half of the inning.
Spencer made the most of a second chance at the plate to open the inning. She initially grounded out, but Jade Renner was called for an illegal pitch. Spencer stepped back in and hammered a single to center.
Hanes followed with her second bunt single. Frank then lined out to second for the first out before Hanes was erased at second on a fielder’s choice hit by Assalone.
Assalone quickly took second without a throw to put two runners in scoring position for Wruble, who smacked a single to center to plate Spencer and Assalone to make it 4-2.
West Greene quickly extended its lead in the fourth though.
McKenna Lampe tripled home Linzee Stover, who had singled, with one out before scoring herself on a two-run homer to deep left-center by twin sister Madison Lampe to put the Lady Pioneers up 7-2.
Assalone settled in a little after Lampe’s blast and kept West Greene off the board in the fifth and sixth innings.
That gave DCC a chance to battle back into the game.
The Lady Cardinals looked to be in business in the fifth, as Spencer beat out a bunt single and Hanes an infield single to open the inning.
Renner then got Frank to pop up to first before Assalone lined out to center. Hanes got caught too far off second on the liner and was doubled-off to end the inning.
Central finally pushed a run across in the sixth, thanks to a West Greene error.
With two outs, Maurer singled to center. Alyssa Bittner followed with a shot to right-center. Center fielder McKenna Lampe quickly got to the ball but kicked it past the right fielder towards the line as she went to field it.
That allowed Maurer to race around to score and Bittner to hustle into third. That’s all DCC could muster in the inning though, as Renner got Carley Semantic to foul out to first to strand Bittner.
West Greene then tacked on two key insurance runs in the top of the seventh.
Rizor led off the inning with an infield single and Jade Renner followed with a double to left-center to put two runners in scoring position. Rizor scored on a single by Lexie Mooney, while courtesy runner Brianna Goodwin came home on a groundout by Stover to make it 9-3.
Central tried to put together one final rally in the seventh.
Spencer beat out an infield single to start the inning but was erased on a fielder’s choice hit by Hanes. Frank followed with her two-run blast off the scoreboard, but that’s as close as DCC got.
Renner got Assalone to fly out to center and Wruble to ground out to short to end the game.
The game was the final one for DCC’s stellar group of seniors that features the starting quartet of Frank, Assalone, Hanes and Maurer and the injured Gabby Caruso.
“The seniors have been wonderful for us and have set the stage for our program,” said Heigel. “We have a nice group of kids, seventh graders and eighth graders, coming up through.
“I don’t know if its feasible to get back to this level, but winning district championships is a goal we can attain going forward from here. We’re going to be good next year, and our underclassmen have learned so much from these seniors. They (seniors) worked hard, but had fun doing it.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t have carried it through until at least Friday, but it was a nice year and a nice four years. I’m sorry its over.”
As for West Greene, it advances to play Williams Valley for the second straight year in the finals.
Williams Valley, which beat West Greene 3-2 in last year’s state finals, reached this year’s championship game with a 9-5 win over Meyersdale Monday.