Frazier heads into today’s PIAA Class AA softball championship game at Penn State University riding a high wave.
The Lady Commodores (20-4) are coming off one of their most complete games of the season against a worthy opponent in Cranberry. If they can duplicate that today against Brandywine Heights (17-9), they’ll have a solid shot at taking home a state championship trophy.
The Bullets’ program will have experience on its side, though, as it will be playing in its sixth state final, although it only has won one title (2013).
Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Beard Field inside Nittany Lion Softball Park.
Elizabeth Forward, like Frazier, will be playing in its first PIAA final as it takes on West Perry (23-5), also in its first state final, in the Class AAAA final at 1:30 p.m.
The WPIAL champion Lady Warriors (20-3) will be looking to close their season on a 20-game winning streak against the Mustangs, who only finished third in District 3 but have gotten hot in the PIAA tournament.
West Perry blasted Landsdale Catholic, 20-0, in the first round and followed that up with win overs Mifflinburg, 5-2, and Honesdale, 3-1.
EF rolled over Punxsutawney, 8-2, blanked Grove City on Kailey Larcinese’s two-hitter, 1-0, and edged Mount Pleasant, 2-1, in an eight-inning walk-off victory to reach the final.
The Lady Warriors have had little time to celebrate, but coach Harry Rutherford assured his team will be ready as it tries to cap a section title and its first WPIAL championship with a PIAA crown.
“One more game,” Rutherford kept repeating to his players after Tuesday’s victory at Slippery Rock. “They’ll be fine with it. This is an uncharted game for them, and me.”
Both Frazier and EF reached the state final with walk-off wins.
Taylor Ludwick scored the winning run for the Lady Warriors against Mount Pleasant when she drew a two-out walk, stole second and came home on Bri Sersevic’s bloop single.
Cranberry scored two runs in the top of the seventh to pull even with Frazier, 4-4, but the Lady Commodores’ Logan Hartman singled to lead off the bottom of the inning, was bunted to second by Juliann Johnson and scored from there on Emi Curcio’s single.
Frazier followed up a 9-3 loss to Laurel in the WPIAL final with wins over Marion Center, 9-6, and Chartiers-Houston, 4-3, before disposing of the Berries.
Brandywine Heights, like Frazier, did not win its district title as it fell to Susquenita, 7-2, in the District 3 final, but got revenge on Tuesday with a 12-10 win. Before that the Bullets beat Conemaugh Township, 2-0, and Holy Cross, 9-0.
Frazier coach Don Hartman won two WPIAL baseball titles while guiding California but had never reached a PIAA championship game in baseball or softball until Tuesday. Cranberry’s seventh-inning rally to tie the game gave him some miserable flashbacks from one of his Trojans teams which had gotten to the same point at the same place.
“Villa Maria,” Hartman said following Tuesday’s win at Slippery Rock University. “It’s 2006, we’re playing Villa Maria over at the big stadium over there. I’ve got bases loaded, nobody out. I’ve my three-four hitters up. My catcher, who just hit a home run two innings ago, hits a swinging bunt, catcher steps on home, throws to third. Like that I’ve got two outs.
“They have a left-handed pitcher. They take him out, put him at short, I’m like, ‘What are they doing? Left-handed shortstop?’ My clean-up hitter hits a missile that would’ve been a single to the gap (to a right-handed shortstop) ... fields it, turns, throws to first base, bang-bang, we lose 3-2.
“No you don’t think that’s kept me up for the last 12 years? That was in the semifinals in 2006 to go to the state championship game.”
Hartman watched his daughter come around third and score the winning run in the bottom of the seventh, though, to perhaps stop those recurring Villa Maria nightmares.
Frazier played a complete game against the Berries. It fielded well, committing only one error, Logan Hartman pitched a solid game, it got key hits, did the fundamentals well and it was aggressive on the base paths.
The Lady Commodores stole five bases, including two each by Megan Celaschi and Kathryn Barch, while Cranberry stole just one and that came on a double steal in which catcher Juliann Johnson threw out the lead runner at third.
Frazier executed three sacrifice bunts, two by Johnson and one by Barch, to none by the Berries.
“That’s my small-ball mentality,” Hartman said. “I’ve got to put the runner in scoring position and pressure the defense.
“We did field well. We made the basic plays. We didn’t boot balls. We did the routine things.”
Hartman was in the mood for celebrating just a bit on Tuesday night but wanted his team back on the field on Wednesday.
“We’re going to party tonight,” Hartman said, “and we’ll get up in the morning and go back to work.”