Vrabel leads NA past Montour in Class AAA softball title game
North Allegheny junior catcher Jill Dorsch calls a good game, even if it’s just a steady diet of Liz Vrabel fastballs.
“We haven’t used the changeup much the past two games,” Dorsch said. “Liz has been throwing so hard.”
Montour can attest to that as it only salvaged two hits Thursday in a 3-1 loss to North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game at California (Pa.) University’s Lilly Field.
“You can’t win if you don’t hit,” Montour coach Jen Robinson said. “Her speed, all she does is blow it past you.”
Vrabel, who threw 14 innings Wednesday in a semifinal victory over Baldwin, struck out 10 while subduing a very good hitting team, as North Allegheny (21-3) won its first WPIAL softball title in its first apperance in the championship game.
“It is so exciting,” Vrabel said. “Most of us have been on this team for three years, and we’ve worked so hard to get here. But our season isn’t over yet. We still have states.”
North Allegheny plays Elizabeth Forward, which it defeated, 6-0, in the quarterfinals, Monday in the first round of the PIAA playoffs while Montour (19-4) faces District 6 champion State College.
“I think we’ll bounce back,” said Montour shortstop Francesca DiMaria, whose team lost in the quarterfinals last season and then reached the state finals. “It’s a new year and anything is possible. We know that.”
Montour edged North Allegheny, 3-1, during the regular season, but back-up Sara Krastek pitched instead of Vrabel. That made all the difference in the finals. Vrabel (15-0) has struck out 60 batters in 35 postseason innings, while allowing one run, four hits and three walks.
“(Vrabel) is a very good pitcher, she throws very hard and hits her spots,” DiMaria said. “She was getting those outside pitches. After the first time (at-bat), you have to start swinging at them.”
Vrabel also went 2 for 3 and drove in Jess Givens, who had doubled, in the fourth inning with a single up the middle for the first run of the game.
“I just try my best,” said Vrabel, who bats sixth. “I knew if I didn’t get it done, my teammates would.”
Vrabel’s RBI came after the Tigers squandered opportunities in the first and second innings. North Allegheny got runners on first and second base with one out. Robinson then pulled starter Lindsay Knouse and replaced her with Brenna Reed, who forced to weak ground balls to end the inning.
“It was just a change of pace,” Robinson said.
Reed, who hadn’t given up a run in the playoffs, gave up the game-winning runs in the fifth. Kari Steigerwald reached on an error and then Dorsch knocked her in on a triple to left field. Matusiak followed with an RBI single.
“The difference in today’s game was we got a couple of key hits in key moments and they didn’t,” North Allegheny coach Rick Meister said.
Montour made a move in the sixth with a two-out rally. DiMaria singled and Reed reached on an error before Jen O’Donnell drove in DiMaria with a single to right field.
Allison Gerger walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Holly Kriger then got two quick strikes before Vrabel threw a wild pitch. Dorsch pounced on the ball and fed Vrabel for an easy tag on Reed trying to score from third.
“I said no, but she heard go,” Robinson said. “But what are you going to doâ¢ She’s an aggresive baserunner and you don’t want to take that away.”
Vrabel retired the side in order in the seventh that set off a wild celebration to give this team some bragging rights at a school known for athletic achievment.
“We’ve always had this thing with the baseball team, and now we can say something,” Dorsch said.