Riverside coach Pam McCarty clutched a golf ball following her team’s 2-0 victory over Philipsburg-Osceola on Tuesday.
This one, a Maxfli Noodle, was one of many that have served as a lucky charm for her 22-0 squad all season.
“Our field is beside a golf course and we find a golf ball before every game,” McCarty explained. “It sits amongst all of the bats and it works.”
What really has been the good luck charm for McCarty and her Lady Panthers has been the right arm of pitcher Kirsten Wilson. Heading into Friday’s PIAA Class AA title game against Brandywine Heights (26-2) at 10 a.m., Wilson has given up just one hit — a 25-foot-dribbler against Ligonier Valley — in three PIAA games.
The Riverside-Brandywine Heights contest leads off a full day of softball at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Softball Park. Following that game, Neshaminy (23-2) will face Canon-McMillan (24-1) at 12:30 p.m. in the Class AAAA final. Neshannock (21-2) meets Williams Valley (22-4) in the Class A final at 3 p.m. and Valley View (19-0) faces Fort LeBouef (20-4) in the Class AAA final at 5:30 p.m.
Wilson tossed a perfect game against Curwensville, a one-hitter against Ligonier Valley and no-hit the Lady Mounties. That’s 19 innings of one-hit ball against the state’s best competition. The three shutouts have improved the Lady Panthers’ season total to 19. Only three teams have scored against Riverside this season and two of those scored only a single run.
“She hit her spots,” said first baseman Natalie Pritts of Wilson. “That’s what she does best.”
While Wilson has struck out more than 250 batters this season, she’s backed by a solid defense.
“She knows she’s got a defense behind her,” McCarty said. “She hasn’t had a bad game.”
“We all pick each other up,” said Pritts, whose two-run single in the fifth inning was the difference against P-O. “We’re pretty good defensively. We work together. We practice. That’s what you do to win championships.”
Maybe even a bigger good luck charm for the Lady Panthers is that they knocked off P-O. The Lady Mounties, the 2011 champs, have either won or fallen to the eventual Class AA champion every year since 2009.
Riverside is making its first PIAA championship appearance since falling to Fleetwood 1-0 in 2001.
“This is great for us,” McCarty said. “You have no idea. ... These kids have worked so hard. What a great team I have.”
Brandywine Heights is no stranger to the PIAA title game, having advanced to finals now five times in the last four years. You can bet coach Don Roach is glad to see someone other than a Centre County opponent. The Lady Bullets lost twice each to Bald Eagle Area (2005, 2009) and Philipsburg-Osceola (2007, 2011).
Brandywine Heights dominated its first two PIAA opponents 21-0, but needed 10 innings to edge Holy Redeemer 5-4 in the semifinals.
The Lady Bullets have five players who started against P-O in a 1-0 loss in the 2011 title game — third baseman Amanda Hess, pitcher Megan Olsen, center fielder Jenny Seabourne and second baseman Sam Sweigart
Brandywine Heights’ hitters will test Wilson. The Lady Bullets are averaging more than nine runs per game. They had 14 hits in their semifinal win.
Neshaminy is looking for the third title in school history and is making its first appearance in the title game since topping North Allegheny 1-0 in nine innings in 2003.
The Lady Redskins were one of four District 1 teams to make the PIAA semifinals and knocked off rival North Penn 3-2.
Neshaminy is led by pitcher Lauren Quense, who sports a 23-2 record with 241 strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA.
The Lady Redskins have four hitters batting above .400, led by Julia McGovern at .486. Quesne (.405) has bombed 10 home runs.
Canon-MacMillan, the District 7 champ, spoiled the District 1 party by bouncing Pennsbury 3-1 in the semifinals.
The Big Macs are led by sophomore sensation Abby McCartney, who hit close to .570 in the regular season. McCartney, who is getting Division I looks, has three hits including a two-run homer in the semifinals.
Freshman shortstop Linda Rush also batted well over .500 in the regular season. Led by pitcher Alayna Astuto, the Big Macs have outscored their postseason opponents 26-4, including 10-2 in PIAA play.
Neshannock took home the PIAA Class AA title last season and has rolled through the Class A bracket, outscoring opponents 19-3.
The District 7 champs return most of the lineup that defeated Warrior Run 4-3 in last season’s title game.
Pitcher Madison Shaffer has three no-hitters and a perfect game this season. She needed an outstanding catch at the fence by center fielder Rayna Furst to preserve a 4-1 win over Southern Huntingdon in the semifinals.
Shaffer, Furst, a Robert Morris recruit, shortstop Jamie Graziani, second baseman Marissa DeMatteo and first baseman Aly Fischer all carry averages better than .500 in a lineup that features multiple left-handed hitters.
Williams Valley, the District 11 champ, cruised in its first two PIAA games (20-2 scoring edge) before topping Northeast Bradford 2-1 in a semifinal nail-biter.
Sophomore shortstop Hannah Nestor is hitting close to .500 and drove in a run in the semifinals. Third baseman Kylie Doyle is hitting close to .450 and has driven in 31 runs. The Lady Vikings do not have a senior in the starting lineup.
Pitcher Cassidy Pinchorski is averaging a strikeout per inning in 40 postseason innings.
Fort LeBoeuf is making its first appearance in the PIAA title game, but its has a roster that’s chocked with players who know how to win a gold medal — in another sport.
Nine softball players were also on the roster for the school’s Class AA volleyball championship.
The District 10 champions have been stingy in the PIAAs, giving up just one run. That came in a 4-1 semifinal win over Ambridge.
Pitcher Amanda Krolczyk has been outstanding in the postseason and struck out nine in a five-hitter in the semifinals. Julia Luke drove in two in that contest.
Valley View, the District 2 champ, had its unbeaten season in jeopardy, trailing Nazareth Academy 2-1 before erupting for five runs in the fifth inning in a 6-2 semifinal win. Blayse Cholish, a .500 hitter, smacked a three-run double to blow open the game.
The Lady Cougars, who fell 2-1 to Big Spring in last year’s title game, are led by pitcher Gina Chieffallo, who is headed to Brown University next fall. Chieffallo has 13 shutouts and a minuscule 0.54 ERA this season.