MECHANICSBURG – Under sun-drenched skies, the magic came to an end for Canon-McMillan’s softball team.
The little team that could unraveled under the 11-hit attack of North Penn and the withering effect Mady Volpe’s fastball had on the Big Macs.
The Big Mac attack didn’t last seven innings as North Penn came away with a 10-0 Mercy Rule win in the semifinals of the PIAA Class 6A softball playoffs Monday at Mechanicsburg High School.
North Penn advances to the state finals for the first time since 1985. North Penn will play either Haverford Thursday.
Looking at the two teams, one knew something had to give. The Big Macs were the darlings of the 6A playoffs, entering the postseason with a 7-9 record and with little hope outside of Canonsburg of doing much damage.
All they did was reach the District 7 finals, earning a spot in the PIAA playoffs. Then they knocked off Mifflin County and Neshaminy to reach this point.
Volpe, meanwhile, was mowing down opponents with her electric fastball and uncanny accuracy. Those are good traits she will take to Coastal Carolina next fall. This was her third straight shutout in the state playoffs and 17th shutout this season. She struck out 12 Big Macs.
At the end of the game, North Penn has a tradition of running in the outfield. For some starters, that would be the extent of their exertion for the day, thanks to Volpe’s domination.
“We got a lot out of this team,” said Canon-McMillan head coach Michele Moeller. “We had a lot of magic. We had to score runs going up against them. I don’t care what the score said.”
North Penn scored twice in the second inning on a two-run home run by Sophia Collins, the No. 8 hitter in the lineup.
“Everyone can hit in our lineup, 1 through 9,” said North Penn head coach Rick Torresani. In fact, the bottom part of our lineup has produced a lot of runs for us.”
In this game, batters No. 6 through 9 went 4-for-10 with three runs and seven RBI. Canon-McMillan’s bottom half of the order went 0-for-7.
Still. Moeller held out hope when it was just 2-0.
“I did not feel we were in a big hole down 2-0,” she said. When it went to 5-0, that didn’t feel too good.”
North Penn did that by scoring three in the third. One run came in on a single just over the third baseman’s head. Another came in on an error. The third came when Canon-McMillan starter Lauren Duke plunked Carley DiGiuseppe in the ribs with a fastball and the bases loaded.
That was the end of the day for Duke, who was replaced by Brooke Perri. North Penn didn’t treat her much better, scoring five more times in the bottom of the fourth.
For the second straight inning, North Penn loaded the bases and Canon-McMillan got out of the inning badly wounded but still alive.
North Penn caught the Big Macs with five bunt hits out of its 11 for the game.
“I didn’t expect to see all the bunts,” said Moeller. “I did not see that the last time. We approached them the same way. I was surprised by the bunts.
“At this point in time, and we’ve been here before, you have to be perfect. You can’t make mistakes. We made a couple the last game and were able to overcome them. If you can’t score runs at this point....”
There are always interesting points in games that reach this point. And Volpe and C-M second baseman and leadoff hitter Olivia Ulam had three confrontations worth the price of admission.
Volpe won the first battle, striking out Ulam swinging at a high fastball. But Ulam smashed a single to left in the third inning, then sent a pitch at the knees into left field again.
Advantage Ulam, who had two of C-M’s four hits. Wonder if Coastal Carolina has St. Francis on the schedule next fall?
“I’m super proud of my team and the way they played this year.” Ulam said while wiping away tears. “We were third in our section and we fought to the end. A little bit of magic happened. That’s what Coach Moeller said and I agree with her.”