Lady Cats Great Season Comes To An End With 5-4 PIAA State Quarterfinal Loss To West Greene (06/09/19)

(Thanks to Kim Constantino for the photos) Above: Lady Cats headed to the bus during big send-off at the school.

While we were waiting for Friday’s PIAA State Class A Softball quarterfinal game, at Slippery Rock University, to start, a parent asked me where the Lady Cats’ opponent, West Greene was from. I mentioned it was down in Greene County, way down by West Virginia. Then I mentioned that they were two-time defending state champs. The parent said that we wouldn’t worry about that. We agreed that we felt we could win.

Senior Lindsey making a nice catch at first.

Well, when the dust settled, our Lady Cats proved that they were more than a capable opponent for West Greene, a team that came into the game with a 20-4 record, whose only loss to a Pennsylvania school, was a 2-0 loss to Frazier (who will face Cranberry, in the Class AA semifinal, on Monday). The Lady Pioneers, from Waynesburg’s other losses were one-pointers 4-3 to Edgewood, Ohio, 1-0 to St. Joseph Academy from Cleveland and 6-5 (8 innings) to Fredrick Douglas from Lexington, Kentucky.

The Cats went toe-to-toe in a last team standing contest, falling 5-4. A one-point loss to, as mentioned above, the two-time defending state champion, a team that coming into the game had outscored its opponents 251-38. A team that shut out fifteen opponents. A team that lists thirty-four players on their numerical roster on MaxPreps; my unofficial count from the cheap seats was that they suited eighteen for the game. The Lady Cats boast a roster of eleven. Talk about a near “Hoosiers” scenario.

Carly Best after reaching first safely

The game was so competitive that both teams were held scoreless through four innings.

The Lady Cats did threaten in the fourth inning, though when Brenna Campbell reached base and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jordan Best. She tried to score from second on a single by Tori Vega, but was out at the plate by a perfect throw from the outfielder.

The Pioneers broke through in a big way, with five runs in the top of the fifth inning, the big blow being a a double by pitcher Jade Renner that drove in three runs.

After one more run scored, Kait Constantino registered two of her six strikeouts, to end the inning. Kait only allowed four hits.

Kait Constantino delivering a pitch.

In reference to the game being scoreless for so long, the Greene County Observer-Reporter mentioned, “Clarion standout pitcher Kaitlyn Constantino was the other reason the game remained scoreless so long. Constantino held the Pioneers without a run for longer than any other pitcher in their 27 postseason games over the four years.”

Neither team scored in the fifth or sixth.

Payton Simko catching a fly ball for an out.

So the Cats had one last opportunity in the seventh. Down five nothing, a lot of teams would have folded. But not these girls. Payton Simko led off the inning with her second double of the day. She advanced to third on a single by Ava Kiser, who moved to second on the throw to third. Noel Anthony reached first, when a ball fell between three players in short left center. Kait drove Payton home, connecting on her third single of the afternoon.

Brenna and Carly Best each grounded out, but Brenna brought Ava home and Carly drove in Noel. Jordan Best singled to left to score Kait. That was the end of the scoring and the Cats, after being down 5-0, fell by just one run 5-4. Fantastic come back effort from a team that refused to lay down and die.

Coach Shofestall said, ” We kept fighting. We’re a young team and they just didn’t quit. I think that is the story of the team this year. They have a lot of heart. They never quit, never quit.”

There was not an at bat where the Clarion players didn’t make contact. No one struck out or was walked, which was good in one sense, but hurt in another.

Clarion players and coaches praying after game.

Coach Shofestall said, ” “Their pitcher, pitches to contact a lot. That’s where she is so effective. Especially early in the game, we swung and hit the first pitch a lot. That helps her (the West Greene pitcher) keep her pitch count down. She has the defense behind her.” But, “We got on her at the end.”

The 2019 Lady Cats Softball Team is special to Coach Shofestall. “I’ve coached a lot of teams over the years. This is a team that really I thought, from day one, improved more than any team I’ve had throughout the season. That’s not taking anything away from other teams I’ve coached. But they improved so much.

“The key to this team was that they were young in a lot of areas, but they don’t panic, as you saw today. They don’t panic when they get down. They don’t quit. This team does not quit.

“When you get to this stage of the state playoffs, you’ve got to fight, because everybody’s fighting to get in there. I thought we fought pretty well. I thought we took the fight to them pretty well. But they took the fight to us too. But that’s what you have, two good teams playing.”

Some of the Lady Cats fans who were there to cheer them on.

Coach Shofestall mentioned his two graduated seniors, Carly Best and Lindsey Kemmer and the fact that they have contributed to the team as four year players. The team will miss their strong play and leadership.

Lindsey had some big plays on defense against the Pioneers.

This year’s Lady Cat Softball Team can take pride in their many accomplishments. The finished with an 18-5 record, were second in District Nine and reached the PIAA Elite Eight. And apart from one inning in the District Championship game and one inning of their quarterfinal game, they held high powered schools DuBois Central Catholic and West Greene, who meet in the semifinal, with one advancing to the State Championship game, scoreless.

This was a great season, by a solid group of players who gave it their all, playing for their coaches, teammates, parents and community. And have coaches, teammates, parents and community who love them and are in their corner (modern translation: have their backs). What a great network.

And Lady Cats, this is one of those seasons you will remember for the rest of your lives. Congratulations to the Coach Shofestall and the Lady Cats, including the all the assistant coaches, the parents and the Clarion community on a great year!!!!