CANONSBURG – There was no stopping the Canon-McMillan High School softball lineup Monday afternoon.
Ten of the Big Macs’ 20 hits went for extra bases. Four of those exited for home runs at the bandbox that is North Strabane Intermediate School field.
And yet, the Big Macs never led.
“They out-hit us in this one,” said Canon-McMillan coach Michelle Moeller. “I was trying everything. I threw everybody at them.”
Whatever was thrown by Big Macs’ pitchers seemed to eventually end up beyond the outfield fence as Bethel Park hit seven home runs and collected 21 hits to outlast Canon-McMillan, 18-17, in nine innings in a battle of teams atop Class 6A Section 1.
“Every year we play on this field and it is a slugfest,” said Bethel Park coach Heather Scott. “Even when they come on our field it is a slugfest. We’ve had a couple of home runs but on this field it’s a little different.”
Different in a way that four-run leads, like what Bethel Park (6-0, 6-0) had in the seventh and ninth innings, can disappear quickly. It disappeared in the seventh when C-M’s Sydney Senay finished a four-run inning with a three-run double, sending the game into extras tied at 14-14.
A seventh and final home run, a solo shot to start the ninth by the Black Hawks’ No. 9 hitter, Lauren Caye, broke the tie. Sandra Soltes and Kayla Miehl then hit back-to-back doubles to score three much-needed runs and gave Bethel Park an 18-14 lead.
The second bid at erasing a four-run deficit for Canon-McMillan (4-1, 5-2) ended 120 feet short as Hailey Freeman, who hit a RBI double down the left-field line, was stranded at second base.
The Big Macs trailed 12-3 entering the bottom of the fifth inning.
“They definitely fought,” Moeller said of her young team, which has no seniors and only two juniors. “I am proud they they fought back. It’s going to pay dividends.”
The two juniors, Lindsay Schmidt and Senay, led the comeback by the Big Macs. Senay, who didn’t have a hit until the fifth inning, finished the game 4-for-6 with a double, two home runs and eight RBI. Schmidt hit the other two home runs for C-M, finishing 4-for-5 with six RBI.
It was he fourth time in the last five games hard-hitting Canon-McMillan has scored at least 16 runs, but the loss drops the Big Macs to third place in the section.
Bethel Park, which has scored at least 10 runs in five of its six wins, built its lead with offense up and down the lineup. Six different players had home runs. Eight players had at least one extra-base hit and scored.
The most devastating at-bat for the Big Macs came when Bethel Park’s Shayna Postler jumped on the first pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, sending a fastball over the fence and onto the top of the batting cage positioned beyond center field for a 9-3 lead. Postler went 4-for-6 with six RBI.
“That grand slam inning,” Moeller said. “That was probably the biggest thing that came back to bite us. We give up a bloop single, walked two batters and then they hit the grand slam. You have to be able to execute pitches and work ahead in the count. Home runs are going to happen on this field. We know that. We are used to it. Every team has the same advantage. Some of those shots would’ve been out on any field. We got ourselves into a little bit of trouble by getting behind in the count.”
The win keeps Bethel Park in first place, one game ahead of Baldwin and a 1 1/2 over Canon-McMillan.
“Bethel Park kept pounding,” Moeller said. “It’s a long season. We have a lot more games. We are going to see them again. I’ll just make sure (our outfielders) are back further. We learned a bit about their hitters by seeing them so much all game.”