CURWENSVILLE – With several players from the last two state PIAA Class A softball championship teams, two outstanding pitchers, two good defenses and a number of dangerous hitters, Monday\’s West Final between Curwensville and Vincentian Academy has all the ingredients to be a classic.
Both the District 9 champion Lady Tide and the District 7 champion Royals will be eying a return trip to Shippensburg University\’s Robb Field for Friday\’s state title game when they tangle at 4 p.m. on the Slippery Rock University diamond.
Curwensville (24-1) boasts four starters from the 2007 team that rallied to beat Upper Dauphin 7-3 in the gold medal game, while Vincentian (22-2) has five regulars from the defending state championship squad that nipped Upper Dauphin 2-1 in the finals.
Pitcher Holly Lansberry, catcher Ashley Demchak, shortstop Shannon McDonald and center fielder Tess Bloom were in the every-day lineup two years ago when the Lady Tide outscored four opponents 20-4 in the state tourney, including a 7-1 victory over Vincentian in the quarter-finals.
Demchak was the third baseman and McDonald the right fielder that day as Lansberry three-hit the Royals, struck out six and walked none in one of her typical performances. Vincentian\’s run was unearned.
McDonald drove in two runs with a single and a double, Bloom singled twice and scored one run, Lansberry scored twice after reaching base on errors and Demchak came through with a two-out RBI-single that got the Lady Tide rolling after falling behind 2-0. Erin Bressler, the current right fielder, pinch-ran for Demchak and scored on McDonald\’s double.
Curwensville totaled nine hits off Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year Trish Melvin, though she did log 12 strikeouts.
The 2009 Royals who started in that game are pitcher Nina Melvin, who was the catcher for her sister, and center fielder Ale Zozos, who had one of the hits off Lansberry and scored the lone run. Third baseman Taresa Dongilli entered as a pinch-hitter.
Other Royals who know what it\’s like to play under pressure on almost every pitch are catcher Nikki Linder and shortstop Emily Beckley.
All except Zozos were at different positions when the Royals celebrated their PIAA crown a year ago. Nina Melvin still was the catcher, while Linder played second base, Beckley handled the hot corner and Dongilli patrolled right field.
Vincentian has lost only to Class AAAA semifinalist Shaler 3-0 and Class AA semifinalist Riverside 2-1.
The Royals won the WPIAL Class A Section 3 title with a 12-0 record, including two forfeits from Sewickley Academy.
They shut out Chartiers-Houston 7-0 and Carmichaels 5-0 before edging Section 3 runner-up Avonworth 3-1 for the their fourth consecutive WPIAL championship.
They ousted District 10 runner-up Cochranton 3-2 in eight innings and District 6 runner-up Northern Cambria 7-3 last week.
Nina Melvin pitched out of three bases-loaded jams and belted the Royals\’ first homer of the season that cleared a fence, while Ashley Darby belted a two-run double against Avonworth.
Dongilli came through with a one-out, walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth against Cochranton. Darby had the other two RBIs.
Darby and Melvin set the tone for the Royals against Northern Cambria with back-to-back home runs in the first inning. Darby and Dongilli singled home runs in the third, and Dongilli put it away with a three-run homer in the top of the seventh.
Melvin went into the state playoffs with 10 shutouts and 189 strikeouts. She had surrendered 82 hits and 42 walks.
The Vincentian lineup features a pair of .500 hitters in Darby and Zozos and two .300 hitters, Lindner and Melvin. They have more than 20 RBIs apiece.
Lindner and center fielder Ashlyn Mallison are the only two seniors on the team. Melvin, Dongilli, Zozos and Beckley are juniors. Right fielder Kaela Huston is a sophomore and Darby and first baseman Bridget Melvin, who is hitting just under .300, are freshmen.
Zozos, Linder, Darby, Melvin and Dongilli are the first five batters Lansberry will face.
The Lady Tide right-hander is coming off what arguably was her toughest outing of the season.
She had given up more than three hits in only one game prior to Union City banging out eight in a 9-3 loss.
Only one of the runs was earned, so Lansberry\’s earned run average rose slightly to 0.20 on four earned runs in 138-2/3 innings.
She\’s 23-1 with 19 shutouts.
Like the Royals, the Lady Tide\’s heavy hitters are stacked at the top of the lineup.
Demchak, whose average is a robust .520 on 40 hits, is preceded by a pair of .440 hitters in Lansberry (36 hits, 31 runs) and McDonald (35 hits, 31 runs) and followed by third baseman Jenessa Stiles (.470, 38 hits) and first baseman Stacey Johnson (.420, 28 hits).
Stiles, who had four hits against Union City, leads in RBIs with 30, one more than Demchak\’s 29. Lansberry and McDonald have driven in 26 runs apiece.
Curwensville\’s other starters will be Jenae Stiles at second base, Sara Clark in left field and Bressler in right.
Coach Allen Leigey has been utilizing Molly Demchak (.590, 10 hits) as the designated player in the playoffs.
The Lady Tide opened the state tourney with a 3-0 win over Leechburg with Lansberry spinning a two-hitter.
The Curwensville-Vincentian winner will meet either District 2 champ Old Forge (16-2) or District 6 champ Claysburg-Kimmel (23-3) for the PIAA title.
Both stayed in the hunt Thursday with their pitchers firing perfect games.
Claysburg-Kimmel\’s freshman Ronette Claar struck out eight in a 7-0 win over District 3 champ Greenwood (11-10), while Old Forge\’s Jess Armillary fanned nine in a 1-0 squeaker over District 1 champ Bristol (21-3).