McMURRAY – After Thursday’s PIAA Class AA state softball quarterfinal, Frazier’s Logan Hartman looked like a pitcher who had just thrown a complete game.
Her shoulders were wrapped up. She had an ice pack around her throwing arm. While Hartman was hurting physically, she was just fine mentally. Hartman had just pitched her team to its first state semifinal, throwing all seven innings of a 4-3 win over Chartiers-Houston.
“I feel like I got beat down,” Hartman said. “It’s really tough playing them. The heat was extreme. I’m just glad we came out on top.”
Based on the previous three meetings between the WPIAL 2A Section 3 rivals, it was difficult to predict how Thursday’s matchup was going to play out.
Frazier (19-4) came into the afternoon with a 2-1 advantage in the season series. While the Commodores handled the Buccaneers (18-5) 10-3 in the WPIAL 2A Semifinal, that scoreline was an outlier. The previous two games were decided by a combined total of three runs. Thursday’s contest was closer to the WPIAL regular season matchups than the semifinals, and the game came down to the last out.
With runners at first and third, Hartman retired Kasey Scears, ending what both Bucs head coach Tricia Alderson and Frazier coach Don Hartman agreed was a typical dogfight between their two teams.
“They play hard, we play hard,” Alderson said. “It’s always a battle when our teams get together.”
The game was scoreless until Frazier struck first in the bottom of the fourth. An RBI single by Savannah Berklovich scored Emi Curcio to put the Commodores in front. Frazier added on one batter later on a single by Mackenzie Kelly. This was the last batter Char-Houston senior Ella Brookman would face in the circle. She took the loss in her final game, allowing two earned runs on four hits, walking three and striking out two over three innings. Freshman Nicolette Kloes relieved Brookman, and gave two runs on three hits over the remaining three innings.
In the fifth, Berklovich contributed again with a sacrifice fly, pushing the lead to three. Down to their last six outs, however, the Bucs clawed back with two runs in the sixth.
Char-Houston broke the shutout on a solo home run by junior shortstop Kaci Alderson. The Bucs cut the deficit to one when Lauren Lober tripled, then scored on a sac fly by Karlyn Bayer.
For Don Hartman, Frazier had done well to neutralize Alderson – who he considers one of the best in the WPIAL – in the previous three meetings, and it was a matter of time before she hit one over the fence.
“When she comes up, it’s dangerous,” Hartman said. “We’ve been able to keep her down a little bit this year, and when she hit the home run, I laughed and said ‘well, law of averages.’ You play her four games in a row, sooner or later shes going to catch one. She did, and I expect nothing less of that young lady.”
Frazier added insurance in its half of the sixth on an infield single by Kathryn Barch.
With two outs in the seventh, Alderson had a chance to alter the game’s outcome entirely when she stepped up to the plate with two outs, and runners at first and second. While Alderson came through with an RBI single, her at bat ended with Frazier still in the lead, and Logan Hartman got the last out one batter later.
“We thought about walking (Alderson) in that situation,” Don Hartman said. “We just decided to really pitch around her and try to limit the damage. That was the key. We gave up a little single and score a run, I’ll take that over Kaci hitting a three-run (home run) and (Char-Houston) going up a couple of runs there. She got a nice little bloop single for one run, but it was enough to keep us up a run.”
When all was said and done, Logan Hartman allowed three runs on five hits over seven innings, walking five and striking out three.
Char Houston will be going through a transition in 2020, losing four starters from this year’s squad to graduation. For Tricia Alderson, qualifying for the WPIAL postseason, let alone the state tournament, will be enough of a challenge next year.
“We’re just going to worry about making the WPIAL playoffs first,” she said. “We’re not going to look ahead at all, because we’re going to have a brand new group. We have to work really hard to make the playoffs next year, because our sections tough.”
In the semifinals, Frazier has a chance to avenge its only postseason loss thus far. If Laurel – who beat the Commodores 9-3 in last Friday’s WPIAL championship game – beats District 9 champions Cranberry Friday afternoon, the class 2A finalists will meet again for a chance to play for a state championship.
“They pretty much embarrassed us,” Don Hartman said. “We made a bunch of errors. I would like to at least show them that we’re a better ball team than what they saw.”
Despite the loss, Tricia Alderson is pleased with Char-Houston’s effort in its last game of 2019.
“I’m really proud of my team,” she said. “We were down 3-0 and we battled back. They had to work hard to get us out in the last inning. We battled ‘till the end. That’s all you can ask.”