District 11 Champion Minersville (24-2) scored four runs in the 4th inning to win their tenth PIAA Championship, defeating WPIAL runner-up South Side (20-4) in the 2A Softball Championship Game at Penn State’s Beard Field on Thursday.
The tile win for Minersville , their first since 2014, comes with some controvery, as South Side pitcher McKenna Smith was called for throwing ten illegal pitches during the game, with one directly leading to a solo home run by Minersville’s Adrienne Kroznuskie.
After South Side took a 1-0 lead in the 3rd inning, Kroznuskie was given a second chance to bat after flying out to lead off the 4th inning. But the umpires, after being alerted of a possible violation by Minersville coach Dave Homa, declared that Smith had committed a violation, allowing Kroznuskie to continue her at-bat. On the next pitch, Kroznuski crushed a ball over the left field fence to tie the game.
“I think that when your pitcher is not only being called for an illegal pitch by an umpire, but being heckled by the entire stands every time she throws a ball, it makes it difficult to throw strikes,” South Side coach Amy Pieto said of the momentum changing sequence.
Two more illegal pitch calls in the 4th inning, paired with a run-scoring sacrifice fly by Maggie Wigoda and a two-run single by Kaylee King, pushed the Battlin’ Miners lead to 4-1.
“Two weeks ago against Chartiers-Houston, the umpires told us that they were not going to call the illegal pitch because it was not an illegal pitch and two weeks later, there is is, it’s an illegal pitch” Pieto said. “I think they maybe need to train the umpires a little bit better.”
South Side’s lone run came in the 3rd inning when Smith walked with the bases loaded, scoring Kaitlyn Woodling.
But Minersville pitcher Maura Bentz, helped out by a defense that did not commit an error and made multiple high difficulty fielding plays, was able to hold the Rams the rest of the way.
Bentz pitched a complete game, allowing eight hits, while striking out four and walking just one. Her circle opponent, Smith, pitched well despite the illegal pitches, allowing the four runs on seven hits, striking out seven and walking only one batter.
South Side’s Capri Sollinger-Kinsley finished with three hits and Regan Hozak went 2-for-4 in the loss as the Rams graduate three seniors from a roster that, despite finishing the year with only ten players, reached their first state title game in program history.
“It was great to be here,” Pieto said. – “The girls were excited to be here. We just didn’t get the end result we wanted.”